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FAQs about Pearly Jawfish Systems

Related Articles: The Pearly or Yellow or Golden-headed Jawfish, Opistognathus aurifrons, Use in Marine Aquariums by Bob Fenner, Jawfishes

Related FAQs:  Jawfish Systems, Pearly Jawfish, & Pearly Jawfish ID, Pearly Jawfish Behavior, Pearly Jawfish Compatibility, Pearly Jawfish Stocking/Selection, Pearly Jawfish Feeding, Pearly Jawfish Disease, Pearly Jawfish Reproduction, & Jawfishes 1, Jawfishes 2, Jawfish Identification, Jawfish Behavior, Jawfish Compatibility, Jawfish Selection, Jawfish Feeding, Jawfish Disease, Jawfish Reproduction,


Jawfish/Systems 3/5/12
<Hello Matt>
Quick question.  I was looking to add a Pearly Jawfish to my 36-gallon Bowfront.
<Any other inhabitants?  Jawfish must be kept with docile tankmates.>
The tank has about 3 inches fine sand substrate with rock rubble and other smaller rocks/shells lying around.
<Four inches of sand would be better.>
However, I was thinking of adding a small decorative barnacle to the system in hopes of the Jawfish using it as its burrow instead of the substrate.
<Very unlikely a Jawfish will call this home, prefer a burrow/cave.>
I know it's impossible to say, but what are your thoughts on the plan?
<If this is the entire plan it sounds good but do suggest you read here.
Also, would a tiny Yellow Watchman Goby (about 1 inch max) frighten the Pearly?
<Will depend on how many Jawfish you have, competition for burrowing space.>
Thanks for the site!
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
Matt Compact Lighting? 3/5/12 has a splash shield was wondering if I could set it on my glass top. also has a cooling fan .65 watt 4 of them 48 inch. without the legs <Is this an answer to a previous query? If so, do reply to original thread. If not, we need information on your tank size/type and please resend with proper grammar. I do not have the time to correct/capitalize before posting on the dailies. Thank you. James (Salty Dog)>

Pearly Jawfish Questions/Jawfish Compatibility/Systems 3/31/2011
<Hello David>
Thanks again for everything that you all do. It is truly appreciated.
<You're welcome.>
I have some Jawfish system set up and tankmates questions for you. I am currently planning a 50 gallon FOWLR system (36 x 15 x 20). I am thinking of moving my Pearly Jawfish (*Opistognathus aurifrons*) to the new tank. My fiancé really loves the character of it so it makes me wonder if a second one be added to a tank of that size? I've read that they need about a square foot of surface area per pearly. My guess is that there is no exact formula, so I don't really trust that.
<Shouldn't be a problem, are found in groups in the wild.>
In setting up the deep sand bed would it be better to create one deep area where I would want the Jawfish to settle or keep it deep all over?
<You can create an area you would like them to settle in, not necessary to do the entire tank.>
I'd like to not take away too much water volume out, as I'd like to add some tank buddies for them and the move water the better.
<Mmm, best to read here and related articles/FAQs found in the header.
I am curious about tankmates for a tank this size. In the smaller set up for the pearly I stayed away from even the somewhat aggressive fish, which has worked out great. With a larger tank I wonder if it would be possible to add something like a flame angel (*Centropyge loriculus*), Lemonpeel angel (*Centropyge flavissima*), or a six-line wrasse (*Pseudocheilinus hexataenia*) without causing a battlefield?
<The swimming area of your tank is a little small for most Centropyge, would not choose this species.>
Additionally I wonder about a blenny likely a lawnmower (*Salarias fasciatus*)
<Would work keeping in mind they can reach nearly five inches full grown.>
if I need an algae eater or a starry blenny (*Salarias ramosus*),
<Ditto here.>
or instead of a blenny a smaller goby like the green banded (*Elacatinus multifasciatum*) or the Wheeler's (*Amblyeleotris wheeleri*).
<More suitable size wise.>
Again in a smaller set up another bottom dweller would be certain warfare, but with the bigger footprint I wonder if it would work. My guess is that one other bottom dweller might be ok as long as it is only one blenny/goby and one pearly Jawfish.
<You should be fine with the last two choices. It's nonconspecific burrowing fish that may cause problems.>
Thanks for your time and for your thoughts,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Jawfish home/tankmates question 8/29/10
Greetings and salutations,
I'll start with a big thank you for all your time
and efforts for this wonderful website, your efforts are sincerely appreciated.
I am planning out the home and inhabitants of my 29g Biocube (fish only). It was previously up and running for over a year but, as I moved its former inhabitants to their new and much larger home, I'm looking to place new livestock in and want to make sure the plan is workable before I add any livestock. I have decided that I definitely want a yellowhead Jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons).
<Neat animals>
I have done much reading and searching the web for answers but while having a great number of issues addressed, am left with some remaining questions specific to my plans.
If you are not familiar with the size of a 29g BC here are some details: The swimming or display area where the fish will live is about 15x19x15. As it is sw I removed the bioballs and use the back chambers as a sump. I do not have a protein
<I would>
I use filter pads and employ a filter bag containing activated charcoal instead of the expensive and poorly designed cartridges which came with it.
<You are wise here>
When up and running with inhabitants I do 25%-30% water changes weekly or bi-weekly depending on nitrate levels.
In preparing for a Jawfish I have added more live sand (of a larger size than what I had already had), I crushed up and added some live rock for larger pieces of substrate and have added many empty snail shells. I placed some live rock
pieces on the glass bottom and built on top of the them for my rock structure to avoid falling rock issues. I began with 2 inches of sand. I have wanted to go beyond the 3 inch recommendation desiring up to 6 inches. However in adding
much substrate I realized that I lose living space for non-bottom dwellers, which brings me to my first question:
I wonder if it would meet with Jawfish approval if I began with shallow substrate in the back and increased the levels moving towards the front in such a small space (about 285 square inches)? If so how large of an area would need to be
<Yes; a square foot or so; 3-4 inches>
This then brings me to the next question concerning tank-mate which is then in part dependent upon the answer to the above question. I will certainly put the Jawfish in first and leave it to establish itself for a few weeks before adding any new
fish. As I understand it Flame Hawkfish, six line wrasses, and Dottybacks are acceptable as tank mates.
<Mmm, well... this size/shape container is really unsuitable for Cirrhitids/Hawks, and Sixline's are a bit too mean at times... Some Pseudochromid species, particularly tank bred/reared are fine...>
(While to me the small wrasse and Dottybacks are fast and active swimmers, they don't fall into the category of fast and active swimmers to avoid with Jawfish). Obviously in a 29g all of these together would be too much fish. So I am trying to
determine which two I could bring together with the Jawfish.
<Mmm, how 'bout a Fridman's?>
I fear with a Flame Hawkfish that in a smaller tank as this one they might eventually become aggressive towards the Jawfish and any other inhabitants.
<Too likely>
I fear with the Dottybacks and six lines that aggression may also be an issue, depending on the individual fish. I've had to
return two six lines to my LFS due to their aggression in two separate tanks where a more peaceful six line would have been fine.
(I love all three fish and their swimming styles so any thoughts you might give on the better and safer combination would be
greatly appreciated). In theory these three would be ok in a tank of this size; however, I wonder what happens when I make the tank even smaller with the enlarged substrate. So in relation to the answer to my first question is my plan for tank mates ok?
<Not what I'd risk, no>
Thank you again for your time, effort and consideration and I apologize for any mistakes I have made in attempting to ask my questions.
Best regards,
<And you David. Please do read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/smswstk12.htm
and the linked files in the series (above) for much more in the way of ideas. Bob Fenner>
Re: Jawfish home/tankmates question
Thank you so much for the quick and insightful response. Additionally thanks for the link. I had not come across that in all my searching. (user failure for sure.)
Have a Great weekend! (Well what is left of it anyhow)
<Welcome and thank you, BobF>

Caribbean Biotope, stocking, new tank media replacement and substrate for Jaw Fish 4/25/09
Hello all,
<Hello, sorry for the slow response here.>
Thanks in advance for answering my questions and for being (at least for me) one of the best online sources of information.
My question is this I read you FAQ on Caribbean Biotope and I wanted to start my own but with some slight differences. I was going to add LR to both sides and leave the center open or maybe just on one side and leave the rest an open area would the latter be better for everybody?
<Either can work fine, tis more of a personal aquascaping choice.>
I have 3 fish now a Royal Gramma, a Lawnmower Blenny, and a Yellow Clown Goby and 2 Peppermint Shrimp that I want to add to my new system.
My new system is a Red Sea Max 65 Gallon all in one and because it is a new system I will leave it fallow for 2-3 months or more so it can get established or my wife makes me.
<LOL! NO reason to wait so long unless you are curing new rock...even then you can accomplish the swap once it is "cured". See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i3/Live_Rock/live_rock.htm>
For stocking I was going to add some more fish but I don't know what else to put in there and my wife want to put fish that are seen and not hidden and I don't want to push my bio load because I want to make a reef safe tank with some species of coral that will go with my lighting.
<Okay, again a very personal choice of taste. Research re suitability and compatibility will show you the way.>
My next question is should I replace my foam media with a different type of foam? Also should I replace my ceramic pieces for LR rubble?
<What, where? Do you have LR in the main system?>
My last question is the substrate for the Jaw Fish, I read your FAQ on Jaw Fish systems and I want to make sure that I have my 'ducks in a row' before I start. Can I add 30lbs of Aragonite Aragamax sugar sand, (1st layer) 40lbs of Ocean Direct Caribbean Live Sand (2nd layer) and 10lbs of Florida Crushed Coral sand (3rd layer) or would I have to add more to make my new Jaw Fish happy?
<This will put you at about the bare minimum IMO. I would include some more CC or even some larger shell type pieces.>
Thank You,
Ramon and Sons
<Welcome, Scott V.>

URGENT - JAWFISH SAVED FROM FLOOR, sys.    10/23/08 Hi there <Hello> I haven't looked through your other answers as i don't feel i have time. <? So... waiting hours for a response...?> About 30 minutes ago I heard a splashing from my tank, which is covered apart from the two back corners of glass which have corners cut off for cables to run through anyhow i had a quick look couldn't see anything amiss. About 5 minutes later i checked again moved a portable heater (not on) to discover my yellow headed Jawfish on the floor - still gasping i scooped him up and popped him back in the tank he swam round a bit disorientated for a while and has now hidden under a rock. Do you think I should move the rock to see how he is or is there anything i can do to reduce the stress - if he is still alive? Desperate Thanks Tracy <? Can't tell from here. Best to leave as is... hope for the best. RMF>

Re: URGENT - JAWFISH SAVED FROM FLOOR, new adj.   10/23/08 For the record I have just found the half eaten carcass consumed by the reef lobster - so your sarky <sarky (sär'ke) adjective sarkier sark'·ier, sarkiest sark'·iest Brit., Informal sarcastic> remark at the start of your response doesn't help. <Thank you for the follow up... do read re Opistognathid systems... on WWM... need to be thoroughly covered... BobF>

Artificial Jawfish homes? Helping a Jawfish Construct his Home  10/17/08 Hey Crew, <Hey there! Scott F. in today!> Well, my 150gal Caribbean Biotope is cruising along. Live rock has sprouted numerous interesting types of micro and macro algae, gorgonians and Ricordeas seem to be enjoying themselves, and even a trio of Royal Grammas are socializing and getting along. All is great! ...except... <Always that exception, huh?> I thought I had thoroughly prepared the sand to accept Jawfish prior to filling. After running for 2 months, I received my first Jawfish. He was unfortunately the only survivor of 2 mated pairs that were delayed during shipment due to Hurricane Ike. He was a touch traumatized, finally coming out from the rocks to dig a burrow after a full week. This is when I discovered that the sand is apparently too fine! I had used a 1/3 live sand, 2/3 pulverized limestone. Mixed in was about 4 lbs. of large rubble, and 20lbs of "Puka shells" (small mixed shells). I'm not sure if much of the rubble has settled deeply, or what, but all this 3-1/2" fella has been able to create has been a bunch of 3" deep circular craters. He had a shallow tunnel one time, but it collapsed and filled in very quickly. <Sounds like you'll need to utilize additional coarse materials to help him create a more stable matrix for him to construct his burrows.> I'm hoping that perhaps I may find an artificial solution. Do you think that perhaps several 1" diameter or so PVC pipes sunk into the sand might about 4"-5" might work for them? I figure they'd have to be full of sand so that Jawfish could dig them out themselves, but I'm not so sure that they'd recognize them as possible locations for homes. However, if they DID accept them, then it'd be a cinch to locate them where I'd like the fish to hang around conveniently for display. <A good idea. My friend Anthony Calfo has suggested a similar type of construction with PVC pipes for Moray Eels. As you presume, it may that the fishes do not use the PVC "tunnels". However, I would give it a shot. I'd also add some additional coarse material to enhance your substrate. I think that a combination of the two will help your Jawfish construct his homes. As always, thanks for your help! Darby (I have to remember to get a photo of the tank in for Scott F...) <My pleasure. And, yes- please do forward along some pics! Regards, Scott F. (who will be doing some diving in Jawfish country next week!) >

Yellow-Headed Jawfish Colony (ooh, how cool!) -- 09/12/08 Hi, <<Hello>> I have a 55 gallon tank that I am thinking about using to create a home for a small colony of yellow-headed Jawfish. <<Very nice, these are very interesting fish to observe in colony habitats'¦I'm hoping you have been going your homework re>> I am trying to determine how many Jawfish I should add. <<I see'¦ A few decades back when I worked in the live fish department of a local Pier 1 Imports store (yep, they carried tropical fishes back then) we had a 40-gallon setup with a dozen or so Opistognathus aurifrons in it that seemed to do very well. But, many authors these days will advise limiting stocking of this species to avoid constant battling to either one for about every ten gallons of tank capacity, or for about every square-foot of substrate surface area. The success of that 40-gallon Pearly Jawfish tank so many years ago may well be put down to the fact that is was grossly 'overcrowded' (note that I did not say 'overstocked'). You can sometimes see this strategy with highly territorial species like Marine Angels and Tangs, where a large number are 'squeezed' in to a system in an attempt to nullify interspecies aggression (ever seen the 75-gallon tank at the LFS with 12 Yellow Tangs in it that 'appear' to be getting along?)'¦'¦is not always successful, and when it is, is not always for the long term. I'm not going to suggest here that you add a dozen Opistognathus aurifrons to your 55'¦so take what you want from this>> The tank has a 1 foot x 4 foot footprint. Some places seem to suggest a rule of thumb of 2 sq foot per fish. <<For some of the larger species, yes'¦and more'¦but only about half that is need for the Pearly/Yellow-Headed Jawfish in my opinion>> But with this rule, my 120 gallon tank (2 feet by 4 feet) could only hold 4 Jawfish! So, I am wondering if it would be bad to add 4-6 Jawfish to a 55 gallon tank? <<Four would be fine for the 55'¦I think you might even get away with five'¦especially if all added at once to the display>> The tank would have 4-6 inches of varying grades of sand, <<I would go with 6-inches of the mixed substrate'¦the happier the fish are with their burrows the less prone they will be to jump>> some bits of rubble and a protein skimmer. That's it. So what do you think? <<No other fishes? Excellent!!! These wonderful little fish are always best kept to species-specific systems, in my opinion. It sounds to me like you are well on your way to a very nice display>> Another option is to use the tank to house a colony of garden eels. <<Mmm'¦>> How many would you recommend for a 55 gallon tank? <<None'¦ These fish are much more difficult to keep than the Jawfish you propose (needing a constant laminar current to suspend a continuous supply of planktonic (preferably live) food organisms'¦and of course the facility to culture such)'¦and would require a tank at least three times this size just to start, in my opinion. I'm not saying it can't be done or that the eels couldn't be trained/wouldn't eat frozen fare, but you are much more likely to be successful with the Jawfish>> Thanks, Nate Terry <<A pleasure to share'¦please do keep me posted on the progression/success of this interesting display. Regards, Eric Russell>>

Re: Yellowhead Jawfish... Horse Conch comp. Thank you for the answers! I have to apologize again for asking so many questions, I did find some more info and realized that some of them probably shouldn't have been asked. It is just so overwhelming when you have so many different questions and you are getting different impressions from different sources. <Focus... one thing... at a time> I will definitely look into reading those books. I still haven't bought the Jawfish, but he is still there so I have hope! I bought 20 lbs of live sand and some live rock, and I'm letting everything cycle. Hopefully all will be well before he is sold. I am also preparing myself to part with one of the crabs so I can free up some more tank space for him. There is one question that you didn't answer in my last email, and it was a pretty big concern of mine. Will the horse conch try to eat the Jawfish when he (t*he conch) gets to be a few inches long? <Shouldn't, no. Pleuroloca gigantea eats mainly other snails and bivalves> I have visions of the conch positioning himself over the jawfish's hole and sticking his body down there to eat him... the way he does with the snails he eats. I was able to get a better picture of the conch to send to you; he wasn't being very photogenic last time. I'll attach a picture of one of my marginellas, too. Thank you again for your time and knowledge! :) <Welcome! BobF>

Re: Yellowhead Jawfish 04/09/2008 Hello again! :) <<G'Morning, Andrew today>> I have completely revamped my system since we last spoke, and everything is going great. Here are the new specs: 20 gal tank 30 lbs live sand 10 lbs crushed coral 6 lbs live rock (4 lbs worth of large rocks and the rest rubble) 7 blue legged hermits 2 orange cats eye Turbos a 1" horse conch 3 marginella snails 3 Cerith snails Ammonia & nitrites 0, nitrate 20, pH 8.2, salinity 1.023 <<Sounds great>> After I put in the live rock (which had been at the LFS for a long time) and sand, the ammonia & nitrites only took a couple of days to disappear, and they held steady for over a week. So...I bought the Yellowhead Jawfish that I'd been wanting. I know that you said they do better in larger systems so that you can get more than one, but he was all by himself at the LFS, and I wanted to give him a good home. I had everything set up for him, I bought a couple of PVC elbows and placed one on each side of the tank out in the open to make him little caves (that is what he had at the LFS and I didn't want to freak him out by putting him in a system without one). I made the sand slope so that it is a couple of inches in the back and 4-5" in the front, and put all of the live rock in the back, placing the two big pieces directly on the glass and laying the rubble pieces on top of the sand. I tried to make the back of the tank as unappealing for burrowing as possible. I didn't think that I would need to worry about him making his home back there so I didn't do anything to brace the rubble. <<Ok>> Well, as soon as I let him out of the bag he darted to the very back right corner and made a burrow under the rubble! He stayed there for almost 2 days and this morning he has moved behind one of the big rocks. <<Yes, scared of the new surroundings, quite common>> Since I have the tank in a sort of bookshelf I can't see the back of it except for in the reflections on the glass, so this poses a big problem for feeding. He is very shy, and won't come out for several minutes after he has spotted the turkey baster. I placed some brine shrimp at the entrance to his burrow, but because of the location I can't see if he ate it. Will they pick food off of the sand, or does it need to be floating? When he finally inched back out to where I could see him, I did see him grab a couple of pieces that happened to still be floating by. <<They will take some from the sand yes>> Should I be concerned about the pieces of rubble collapsing on him, or is it mainly the larger rocks that would possibly crush him? <<Indeed, all live rock should be stabilised by the glass bottom, and not resting on the sand. I would remove the rubble from on top of where you perceive the fish to hiding>> For these two reasons, (possible rubble collapse and feeding) would it be advisable to pick up the rubble he is burrowing under in hopes that he will move to a better location? Yes, you could even block the entrance if you catch out of the hole, with a view to making the fish burrow somewhere else>> The live rock I got came with a large (and I mean LARGE) population of bristleworms, which I discovered the night after I brought them home. Most of them are 2-3" and one that I have seen is at least 6"! They are the type that are bright red/orange on the front half and dark grey/black on the back half. I found photos of them on your site but none that earned a positive id. I understand that the smaller ones are beneficial, but because these apparently get so large and there are already so many of them, I'm worried about them becoming a problem. The guy at the LFS recommended a six line wrasse and thought that it would be ok with the Jawfish, but I'm thinking that this wouldn't be a good idea in my small system. What do you think? <<I agree, I would not add a 6 lined wrasse in a system if this size>> Is that a definite bio overload & too aggressive of a fish? <<Confines of the tank, boisterous wrasse would lead to unhappy Jawfish>> Finally, there are some other small greenish-white worm-like creatures in one of the rocks. I was hoping the were just hermit crab waste but I saw them sort of jump up and jerk around. I have attached a photo of them. They remind me of the cartoon nematodes in an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants! (admittedly one of my favorite shows :) Can you tell what they are? <<Possibly peanut worms, cant see the ends too well. Please read here including linked articles and FAQ's, see if you spot it. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/wormfaqs.htm >> I attached a photo of my new system, if you look closely you can see the Jawfish in the right rear corner peeking at me and telling me where I can stick my PVC caves! I almost forgot, I attached one of him too, I know they are supposed to be thin but does he look too thin to you? The LFS guy was just feeding him flake food... <<Body does look uniform and no receding area of the stomach, however, frontal shots as this can be deceiving. Varying the diet of krill, brine etc etc is always good for diet>> Thank you for all of your help! Mandy <<Thanks for the follow-up message, all does appear to be looking very well. A Nixon>>

Advice about a Jawfish-Thanks   2/5/08 I would like to thank Eric R. and Bob Fenner for your advice a couple of months ago about my desire to create a Jawfish setup in my 28gal. I spent quite a bit of time looking for information on them and both of you have helped me create a loving home for a happy Jawfish named Buttercup. I have about 4" inches of sugar fine sand with about a 1/2 lb of various pebbles and shells and after about 2 months of moving around constantly looking for his prime real estate he has settled under a rock (braced so no worries of collapse) right next to my "tank watching perch" and has used the shells and pebbles on his den, leaving the rest of my sand shell and pebble-free. He is my only fish and comes out quite a bit to swim against the current and check out what is going on around him. Thank you both again. -Amber <Ah, congratulations. And thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Yellowhead Jawfish stkg.   12/27/07 Dear Crew, Thank you for all the help you have I given me in the past. You don't know how much you have helped me. Unfortunately a new problem arises. I have been interested in Opistognathus aurifrons for some time now and have been planning to convert my 55 gallon freshwater tank into a saltwater tank for the soul purpose of keeping these Jawfish. My question is if I kept nothing but Jawfish and some liverock in this tank could I fit four? <Mmm, possibly... but all would be happier/better with just two or three...> The reason I would like four is because I would Like to obtain a pair for breeding purposes. Any suggestions? Thanks, Tuscan Thompson <Take a bit of time reading accounts of Jawfish spawning, aquaculture... Maybe start at the Breeders Registry (.com). Bob Fenner>

DSB and Jawfish  11/07/07 Hello and thank you for the opportunity to ask you a question about deep sand beds and how they relate to my set up. I have a 28g tank with 30lbs of live rock and about 45lbs of sugar sized oolite sand (4"), and 3lbs of mixed rocks and shells for construction materials all with the intent to have a Jawfish. I have 33 x turnover in my tank in flow, a skimmer, and carbon. I do not have the sand bed for the NNR purpose but more for my Jawfish. Is it possible to stir my entire sand bed once a week with water changes (of course staying clear of my Jawfish den, unreachable areas near the rock) just to prevent any issues with gas formation in the lower levels, discoloration near the glass due to algae? <Yes... though I would do just "Half"... one side or the other every interval. To preserve some of the microbial and macro- life there> Is that actually too counterproductive? Any other suggestions? Thank you as always for your help. I really enjoy your site. Amber <I think you will be fine here with your stirring... though you will find the "Jaws" don't appreciate too much movement near their burrows. Bob Fenner>

Jawfish Burrows... location, feeding, 10/30/07 <Hi Dave, Mich here.> Quick question concerning Yellowheaded Jawfish. <Oh! One of my favorite fish!> I just bought a pair (they have been in the same burrow -and will re-burrow together- at the store for past 3 weeks) for my 90gallon reef tank. When first introduced they stayed close together for the first 24hrs and then created their own separate burrows at opposite ends of the tank at the back. <OK.> I'm not concerned about them not burrowing together at all, but am a little concerned about their location at the back. <Why?> Reading through your information, it is often suggested to use a baster feeder to expel small meaty foods near the burrow. <Yes.> At the back of the tank, it will be difficult to reach the critters as well as keep an eye on them. <Yes, but not impossible. Please make sure your tank is extremely well covered these adorable fish are notorious jumpers and will find the tiniest of spaces to make their escape to drier places.> My question to you, will the Jawfish relocate if they are not getting enough food? <Perhaps.> Will they leave the burrow for the front of the tank to grab food out of the water column and then dart back to their burrows? <I recently spent a little time observing Yellowheaded Jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons) on the reefs in the Bahamas. These delightful little fish do leave their borrows, but generally don't stray too far from their homes. I think if there is an unobstructed passage to the front of the tank they may go there, otherwise, I'm not so sure. You may need to direct some of the food towards the back of the tank. > Dave <Good luck with these cuties! Mich>

Jawfish Tank'¦Suitable Black Substrate -- 10/05/07 Hello and thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask you some questions. <<Hi Amber'¦we're happy to assist>> I have a 28g nano tank and I would like it to contain a Yellow Headed Jawfish, (maybe two), a clean up crew and some corals. <<Two Jawfish of this species would probably be possible in this size tank'¦but be sure to leave plenty of open space uncrowded with rock/coral so they can establish individual territories>><Mmmm, likely not enough room... RMF> I was wondering if it is possible to run black sand in my tank such as calcite sand and other black substrates (a proper mix of grain size) <<Indeed'¦a mix of rubble in with the sand is important for the fishes to be able to 'stabilize' their burrows>> and if it would hurt their mouths. <<This should be fine>> Can you recommend any other type of black sand? <<Nature's Ocean advertises black Aragonite sand along with other larger black marine gravel/rubble (http://www.naturesocean.com/marine_substrates.htm)>> Last question regardless of sand can I get some Nassarius snails to help the rest of the sand bed or will they disturb my Jawfish? <<The snails will not be a problem>> Thank you for your great site. Amber <<Amber, do have a read here (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/jawfishe.htm) and among the associated links in blue. Regards, EricR>>

Jawfish with a poor real estate mind... -- 06/26/07 Hello gang! <Paul> I'm a long time reader, second time writer. First off, thank you so so so much for all your help over the years - you have no idea how valuable you've been! But now down to business. I bought a yellow head Jawfish yesterday afternoon. <Neat animals... but skittish> I acclimated the little guy, plopped him in, and left the lights off until this morning in hopes that he would make a little home for himself. Well, this morning I had a look and found a little sand pile and his new little dwelling - in a terrible spot. It's a 55 gal tank, 36" long. He's the only fish in the tank aside a clown goby. I've purposely put him in first (basically) because I've read that this is ideal for them (being a very docile fish). Anyways, to the point, he's picked a terrible spot at the back of the tank, behind rocks and under xenia. He's basically invisible. He seems (how do you really tell?) quite happy and he ate the frozen Mysis I gave him. My question is, is there anyway I can convince him to relocate to a nicer spot in the tank? Thanks so much! -Paul <Mmm, time really... but you can urge this fish on with placing a bit of coral, shell rubble in a spot you'd like it to relocate... these fishes like to incorporate these bits in the tunneling. Bob Fenner>

Stocking Plan, Jawfish and Tangs, FO   5/2/07 Hi, <Hello Jason.> I am in process of deciding what my tank (70g 36x18x25) inhabitants will be. <Ooh the fun part.> Because of my experiences in the Caribbean watching the Yellow Headed Jawfish do its thing, I would like to plan this tank around having at the most three Y.H. Jawfish... <I think I would limit it to two at the most with this size tank, and I would opt for simultaneous addition.> I think that meets the spacing requirements.  In addition to the 4-6" <6"+ for these critters.> mixed substrate, live rock, corals, and cleaning crew I'm thinking of having one Purple Tang. <Mmm...a bit big for this tank, I'd look at other options.> My concerns are the Tang can obviously move much faster for the food and I don't want to stress these guys out at all... <Yes but generally speaking they will not inhabit the same space/niche...should be okay but I still think the tank is to small to house a surgeon long-term.> What do you think of this plan?   <See above.> If the Tang isn't a good fit what can you recommend? <Other slower moving, smaller fish would make a nice fit. Damsels of the Chromis genus. Anemonefish (though not maroons). There are others; blennies, cardinal fish, some Hawkfish....lost of options, keep reading/researching my friend.> Thanks, <Of course.> Jason Chicago, IL <Adam J; in SoCal.>

Jawfish species tank Hey guys. I'm thinking of a couple of ways to do this 24 gallon aquarium that I'm going to restart sometime in the future.  One of the ideas was a Jawfish species aquarium/biotope.  Here was my idea: About 6-7" of coarse sand, shells, assorted small live rock pieces, and maybe a bit of fine sand. <Yes... best to mix these substrates for Opistognathids> Livestock wise, I'd love to do more than one pearly Jawfish, but I think that's just asking for trouble. <Mmm, yes... this is too small a volume, and foot print... for more than one>   So here are my questions.  Would that much substrate lead to some weird nutrient- sink problems, or would it turn out as a natural nitrate reduction system?   <With care in maintenance, you should be fine here... periodic stirring, for my part vacuuming part of this on a regular basis, with adequate circulation, filtration, careful feeding...> Second, I have some questions about the type of stuff present in the areas where this rubble zone would occur.  Are there larger rocks around, like live rock size? <Can be... but not actually in the "resident" habitats of the species mentioned... this is almost always "open sand"... And a note here to be careful if using larger rock... To place this setting on the bottom (first) to prevent collapse in the tunneling of the Jaw> I'd still like to use live rock as the main filter medium if that is accurate to the environment.  Lastly, can you tell me where to find a listing of some sort of the other types of fish present in this "rubble zone"   biotope.  Thanks for reading this long-drawn out question. <Sure... some of the best... the works of Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach... John Tullock's "Natural Reef Aquarium" book by Microcosm... and Dr. J. Randall's "Caribbean Reef Fishes"... Bob Fenner> Re: Jawfish species tank  2/1/07 Okay then. So the term for the Jawfish habitat would be "open sand."    <And rubble mixed in> And since live rock is mostly not present in this type of environment, I'm guessing my best bet for live rock filtration is to put some assorted rubble in the back chambers in my filter. <Okay>   I'll do some more research on inverts and fish present in this open sand ecosystem, although I don't think I'll have much room left with all that sand. Thanks a ton. <Welcome in kind. BobF>

Re: Jawfish species tank   2/3/07 Ah.  I forgot to ask a couple more things. I failed to mention that I can find a mated pair of Jawfish.  Would   the tank still be too small for the  pair? <Mmm, maybe... O. aurifrons is not found in permanent pairs in the wild... need at least some four square feet per individual... You have two...> My other question was the proportions of the substrate.  You   mention on the site that the ratio should be about 3 to 1 of fine sand to coarse material.  Is the "fine" sand sugar-fine, or is it the   slightly coarser variety? Thanks again. <Larger than this is better IMEstimation... perhaps 4-8 mm. nominal. Bob Fenner>

Construction Materials For Jawfish!   8/19/06 Hi! <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I recently found your site and have been learning A LOT! <Love to hear that!> I currently have a 40g tank (8mo old) with appx 2" of live sand, and 40lbs of live rock. I have numerous hermit crabs and snails, 3 Emerald Crabs, 2 Peppermint Shrimp, 1 Cleaner Shrimp, 2 Rock Flower anemones, 1 Clownfish, 2 Pajama Cardinals, 1 juvenile Blue Caribbean tang, and 1 recently acquired Pearly Jawfish. (I actually purchased 2 Jawfish, however about 30min after adding them to the tank, one just "disappeared". The tank is covered, and he is not inside nor out!). <Bummer...The fish population is pretty tight for this sized aquarium with the Tang in there. Consider larger quarters in the near future for this guy, okay?> I started reading your site about the Jawfish to find the appropriate care, and now realize that I definitely should have more sand. Can I just add sand without messing up my levels and killing everything? <If you add it carefully, sure.> If so, what kind of sand would you recommend? Do I just pour it in?? I am reading that I probably shouldn't add live sand, especially to a somewhat established aquarium... <I think that you can add live sand. I've never had a problem if added carefully and in small quantities over a span of several days or weeks. I'd use one of the finer "oolithic aragonite" sands, mixed in with more coarse material, such as Carib-Seas "Seaflor Special Grade", and maybe even a bit of larger material, like crushed coral. This will provide not only an easy substrate for the Jawfish to dig into, but will provide a bit of "structural integrity" for the burrow it digs.> Also, should I place the rock on the tank floor and THEN add sand around it so that the rocks don't come crashing down on my Jawfish? <You got it!> Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!! Pamela <My pleasure, Pamela! Hope that you enjoy your aquarium! Regards, Scott F.>

Jawfish sys.  3/14/06 Hey! first off I want to say that the site is great!<Thank you.>      I have an extra 55 gallon, and  really want to do a Jawfish tank. I have been researching for about 3 mouths <I couldn't find any mouths on the website either.> and I think I am ready, I know I need at least a 6 inch sand bed, <5 to 7 inches of assorted sizes of sand works good with small pieces of rubble they will use to reinforce their burrow.> but the part I was wondering about is, I want to get 2 Jawfish, is there anyway to pair them? and to get them to breed? or can you just buy them in pairs in the first place?  <Several can be kept in the tank in question and they don't have to be pairs.  I wouldn't worry about breeding as it would be difficult to rear any fry even if they did breed.> My last question is that I heard Jawfish like to make there burrows in the open sand, does that mean I should not have that many rocks? <Yes, they do seem to burrow out in the open but no problem having live rock/rocks.> also just a random question what kind of tank mates would you recommend?  <I'd probably go with Firefish, has to be fish that are very docile.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks a lot, <You're welcome.> Chris

Jawfish 10/16/05 Hi I was wondering what would be the best setup for some Jawfish and what are some compatible tankmates in a 40 gallon aquarium.  <Read here Steve. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/jawfishe.htm.  Good tankmates could be percula clownfish, the smaller gobies, Dottybacks etc. James (Salty Dog)>

Deep Sand Bed Clarification - Jaw Fish Questions Dear Mr. C, <<Greetings>> Just curious as to your opinion on the sand bed debates. Dr. Goeman's recommends four inches of 1-2mm over a plenum. Dr. Shimek calls for 6-8 inches of sugar-size on the bottom of the tank. Bob seems to go for 3-4mm and 3-4 inches with or without a plenum. The hoipoloi have various strongly held and voiced opinions. I am at a loss, and my head hurts. Besides Advil, any suggestions? <<two Advil? Personally - really this is what I have in my refugiums - I would just do a sand bed as deep as is practical, with the finer sugar sands and as much liver rock as is practical. Plenums do work, but require more time to set up and the debate is whether or not the interstitial critters can move through the layers the way they need to or not. Four inches of sand would be fine.>> Semi-related question: Approximately how much floor (sandbed, not living room) space does one allow per yellow headed Jawfish? <<I am not recalling, I do believe it's more than you might think... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/jawfishe.htm - one per system is what Bob says.>> like that No rush; at the rate I'm progressing my tank will be up in 2003.(And the whole philosophy will change again! Sigh.) Thanks, Pam S. <<then again, it may not and you'll be well prepared. Cheers, J -- >>

Circulation and Jawfish Dear Mr. Fenner: Have been doing research for 125 gallon reef project in planning stages.  <Ah, good> Questions on circulation: In a tank setup like a peninsula with only one short side facing a wall and two long and other short free for viewing, what configuration, number, and type of powerheads anchored along the back short wall would be advisable?  <Maybe two, three... one at the top "back" corner, the other one or two at the bottom opposite or both corners... Intent is complete circulation, top, bottom and between.> Strength and positioning of outflow needed also helpful. <Look to the larger Hagen or Aquarium Systems units here. About best quality, highest flows available. Please read through the "Marine Circulation" FAQs posted on our site as well: http://wetwebmedia.com/circmarfaqs.htm> Worried about dead spots in this type of setup. Also, do you prefer wavemakers, oscillators, pulsers, or other type of water movers? <Mmm, a general "it depends" here... by and large in fish only set-ups, simple uni-directional units are fine, better> Am overwhelmed with choices; everyone has horror story about some brand of powerhead, pump, or other device. <The two brands, manufacturers mentioned are excellent... Do ask other actual users if you're concerned... perhaps through the bulletin boards, chatrooms. Ours: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ Very nice, knowledgeable, practiced folks there> Unrelated question: Have been in love with Jawfish since twelve years old and viewing at a public aquarium in Pittsburgh (I think--twelve a long time ago). WetWeb has only sad tales to tell of them in a home aquarium.  <Really? Will have to write some positive ones myself. Kept, and seen many gorgeous displays of Opistognathids over the years> Am I destined to failure along those routes? Any secrets to share (besides no brittle stars)? <Mixed substrates, complete covers, not too many over-competitive tankmates... Really, a generally aquarium-hardy family of fishes. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your time, Pam Shriver

Re: Tank Suggestions Dear Bob, Thanks for responding in such an astonishing manner. <Wonder what about such responses warrants them "astonishing"?> I have a couple questions that I hope you can find time to answer. I went ahead and bought the 440g tank, and just the tank from a friend of mine. I want to turn it into a reef but for now it is just empty in my shed!  <Must be a big shed!> My questions have to do with the 55g reef setup I wrote about earlier! While I wait for my skimmer to get here can I go ahead and start mixing the water in another bare bottom 55g and add a few damsels to start the cycling process? <Hmm, good idea... no need for the damsels... I'd use a bit of live rock> Also I have already had success with all of the angels mentioned in my first e-mail, I was just wondering if the Potter's was more likely to pick on corals than the Fishers? <Both out of Hawai'i range... but the Fisher's much smaller... both about the same likely to pick...> Also I did the math, how is 9.8 watts per gal for this tank,  <This is a bunch... you will need to "match" the availability of carbon dioxide, biomineral, alkalinity... to the boosted illumination...> I plan on keeping all types of coral later on so I figured why not upgrade the combo I just bought, it now houses 2 -175w 10,000k German bulbs and 2-VHO Actinic "03" 95w tubes, they are housed in a fan cooled oak canopy! Would I be able to keep Flowerpots and clams down the road what about Blue Ridge and Birds Nest? <Perhaps> As for lighting the hang-on refugium, what would you recommend? It's only 24"L * 4"W * 12"H!  <A small compact fluorescent fixture would be ideal> Would one of the sand swallowing cucumbers be alright even with the Jawfish having their burrows in the sand?  <S/b fine> Would 3 Jawfish work in the 55 with the rest of the fish?  <Not much space for three on the bottom... would limit this to two individuals...> I ordered a Berlin H.O skimmer how's that one?  <Okay> One last question and I'm off of your screen for a while, Doe you know of any sources on the internet besides The Marine Center, that would maybe have the prices on either a Clarion or a Clipperton angel, and any sites with picture of the most beautiful angelfish? <The Clipperton I've only seen in the UK (at Tropic Marine Centre (at a wholesaler's... the Clarion is now available through Robinson's efforts at LA wholesalers, but only know Marine Center in TX to sell to the end-user... Images: http://wetwebmedia.com/clariona.htm of the Clarion we have, not Connie's Holacanthus... do you have Allen and Allen and Steene's latest Angel and B/F book? You should... ref. to it on the WWM site.> Thanks a bunch! I'll send you some pics of the reef once it's up and running! <Bob Fenner>

Jawfish and Deep Sand Beds Good Evening. <And a great evening to you! Scott F. with you tonight!> I'm in the planning stages of a salt tank, not having had one in quite a few years.  I happened upon this website a few months ago and am delighted at the wealth of information - told my fiancé that it was the Holy Grail. <Or at least a really good source of information on aquariums! LOL> I have a question that I haven't been able to find the answer to here yet, but if I just have been looking in the wrong places please forgive and re-direct me. I would like to incorporate pearly Jawfish into my tank, and would like to provide them with the correct substrate for them to burrow on, which I understand is a mixture.  However, when reading about the deep sand beds, it has been advised not to mix different particulate size as this is detrimental to it's function.  So - would it be plausible to section off an area more suitable for Jawfish tunnels and give them a happy mix in there and have the sugar-sized sand throughout the rest of a tank, and if so, How?  What could I use to section off an area that wouldn't create dead pockets, but would be effective against mixing the different substrates....or at least delaying mixing... Thanks! Ginger <Well, Ginger- I understand exactly what you're talking about, and can appreciate your concern. I like your idea about possibly sectioning off some of the sandbed to accommodate the Jawfishes' habits. However, even if you did this (By creating a separate area surrounded by rocks or something), there is no guarantee that the fishes will choose to utilize that area as their "tunnel territory". I think that you will have to accept some loss of efficiency in parts of the sandbed. On the whole, you will probably not lose too much efficiency in a decent sized tank with one or two Jawfish. If you have a large population of Jawfish, the situation might be a bit different-the overall function of the sandbed might be somewhat impeded. However, in the long run, I'll bet that there is little chance that they would disturb the entire sand bed to the point where you'd have problems...As far as the substrate size, I'd try to stay with the sugar sized stuff, with a few "pebbles" of crushed coral intermingled in the sandbed. On the whole- I think that it will work just fine! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Substrate for pearly Jawfish How are you guys today? Can you tell me what type of substrate is good for a pearly Jawfish and blennies? Fine sand or something more coarse? For Jawfishes,  a mix of some fine (a few millimeters) and larger (several millimeters) and some rubble (shells, coral bits) is best... to allow for digging, tunneling. There are too many types of blennies of too many different modes of life to be overall general re their needs... sifting types are best with fine (1,2 mm.) sand. Bob Fenner>

Preparing For a Jawfish (3/6/04)   First of all, I really appreciate the time and effort it takes to answer all the questions you do. <You're welcome. Sorry for the delay. One of the crew is out and I'm helping clear his inbox.>   Cutting quick to the chase....I would like to add a Jawfish to my 29 gal setup. <Very interesting fish. Which species? The Blue-Spotted are very nice, but cost a lot more than the others.> There is a series of steps I need to take before I could do this and I'm not quite sure how to go about them. <OK. First make sure that your tank is completely covered. Jawfish will jump through the tiniest hole. Also, only peaceful tankmates, and only a couple of them in this small tank. The Jawfish really should go in first if possible.>   Firstly I need to add depth to my substrate, currently I only have 15 lbs of aragonite.  I guess the first question I have is how much of what would I need to add?  <Minimum of 4", preferably 5 or 6. Also, not sugar fine. It needs to be bigger with some chunks it can use to line & cover its burrow.>   Secondly, What process (beyond rinsing and dumping) should I use to add substrate to the tank?  I'd like to triple or quadruple the depth of the bed and I have reservations about dumping that much sand and gravel straight into the tank. <I'd gently rinse it to remove debris and pour very slowly. I pour mine through a long large-bore funnel I bought at Pep Boys. That way there will be much less clouding. I've added it straight before (without rinsing) and swept up the debris in a net, but it sure made a mess of the rock. I had to gently blow all the sand off the rock with a baster. If you already have rock, the funnel allows you to direct the sand exactly where you need it.>   Thanks, you've been a big help already <Hope this helps too, Steve Allen.> Jawfish Tank Adjustment Hey guys, Let me start off with my accolades, you guys are the best! Okay, now I've had my 55 gallon tank for a little over a year now and I haven't had any issues in the least for a couple months. Right now I have a Gymnothorax tile (eel), blue devil damselfish, Hawaiian feather duster, flame scallop, two Condylactis anemones, and a coral banded shrimp. Everyone seems to be thriving nicely. The Condys have chosen their places and haven't moved in months. My question is two-fold concerning Jawfish. My tank has a coarse substrate mostly of dolomite and crushed coral of a 20/80 mixture. I would like to add a Jawfish or two but I realize they need a mixture of sand to stabilize their burrows. Is their any way I can mix sand into the substrate without taking anybody out of my main tank (I have a 10 gallon QT tank, so obviously not everyone can come out)? <Worth trying to add, or possibly (though funky looking) provide a deep container with mixed media for this purpose> My second question is, do you think I am going beyond my bioload (I keep a regular eye on chemicals and my nitrates stay below 5 almost constantly), and do you think the Jawfish would bother/be bothered by any of the current residents? <Should be okay... I take it this is Opistognathus aurifrons (not a Pacific species), so it should be aware, steer clear of the Condylactis> I don't want to overload my system because it seems very stable right now. (pH: 8.3, Amm/Nitrite:0, Nitrate:3, KH: 10, traces of iodine, and calcium, I feed vitamin enriched krill, brine shrimp, and photo/phytoplankton mixes couple of times a week) <Sounds fine. Bob Fenner>  

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