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Related FAQs: Snappers

Related Articles: Fusiliers, Family Caesionidae Indonesian Snappers,

/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

Snappers, Family Lutjanidae
Part 3

To: part 1, part II,


By Bob Fenner

Lutjanus semicinctus Quoy & Gaimard 1824, the Black-banded Snapper. Western Pacific. To 35 cm. Fiji pic.


Lutjanus synagris (Linnaeus 1758), the Lane Snapper. Western Atlantic; North Carolina to Brazil, Gulf of Mexico. To two feet in length, most under a foot. RMF pic of pink tail spot-less phase one in the Bahamas. At right: by Rex Baumberger: "...displays very clearly spot and no spot phases and the yellow dorsal fin margins."
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Lutjanus viridis (Valenciennes 1846), the Blue and Gold Snapper. Eastern Pacific; Mexico to Ecuador. To one foot in length. In Baja and the Galapagos. Five black lined bluish bars on body. 

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Genus Macolor:

Macolor macularis, Fowler 1931, the Midnight Snapper. Western Pacific. To 60 cm. Bali 2014, TiffB pic

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The one snapper "species to avoid" as being too touchy in this assemblage is the black beauty, Macolor niger. Some friends in the wet pet industry and other authors give this fish grand marks, but I have yet to see a juvenile of less than five inches live for any length of time. Make sure the one you are buying has been around a few weeks and is feeding. Below: An aquarium juvenile, intermediate (six inch long) stage individual in the Red Sea an ugly one foot adult, and a two foot monster further below in Bali... of Macolor niger. Red Sea group at right.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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Genus Ocyurus:

Ocyurus chrysurus (Bloch 1791), the Yellowtail Snapper. Western Atlantic; Massachusetts to Brazil and Gulf of Mexico. Maximum length to thirty four inches, most around a foot in length. One in the Bahamas and one in Belize.

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Genus Symphorichthys:

Symphorichthys spilurus (Gunther 1874), the Sailfin Snapper. Western Pacific. To two feet in length in the wild, about half that in captivity.

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About "Freshwater Snappers": 

    There are a few species of Lutjanids that are brackish to marine that tolerate hard, alkaline freshwater. Commonly offered/utilized in this regard are the Schoolmaster, L. apodus (above) and Mangrove Snapper (below). Both/all are more aggressive than most fishes kept in similar settings... eating most everyone's share of the food, and when larger, most everyone else... Do best kept in brackish water, with large, aggressive tankmates.

Lutjanus argentimaculatus (Forsskal 1775), the Mangrove Snapper, Redfin Jack/Snapper. Indo-west Pacific; east Africa to Samoa. To more than four feet in length. Juveniles with eight or so whitish body stripes. 


About The Fusiliers, Family Caesionidae,   http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/FamilySummary.cfm?ID=459

The Fusiliers, genera Caesio and Pterocaesio are rarely seen in the west, but I know of associates of public and private aquaria who have kept these for years; many are attractive (check them out in WEB/HRA/REH's Marine Atlas). Additionally, for snappers they're a diminutive lot, 6-12 inches. Some taxonomists place these fishes in their own family Caesionidae, or as part of the lutjanids.

Selection: General to Specific

A good snapper is easy to find; most offered are excellent, and the one's who "aren't going to make it" are pretty obvious. The latter share two common observable traits: they're physically and behaviorally beat.

Broken fin spines, swollen eyes, missing scales and open cuts are evidence of improper capture and handling. Excessive cowering and lack of feeding come from pretty much the same. Leave such specimens to recover at the dealers.

Collecting Your Own

I want to mention as another item to look for when making a purchase. Snappers are gathered by hand to hand netting, driving into a barrier/mist net, and hook and line. The last category are generally okay in terms of quick healing... but sometimes not. Check for a hook mark in the mouth, even for little fish, and make sure the specimen is eating before taking it home.

Environmental: Conditions


Snappers are undemanding for the most part except for two requirements; adequate living and hiding space. The first is plain to understand; but you'd think that such "reef-bullies" wouldn't be given to sulking and hiding in the dark; but they are. To keep yours happy, construct a good sized cave of rock, coral, shell, what have you; and leave it alone.


Conventional "fish-only" conditions of specific gravity, temperature range and stability, and lack of nutrient build-up suffice.


And circulation should be vigorous to remove wastes and expedite gaseous exchange. A decent skimmer (one that doesn't remove foam continuously) is mandatory for good health.


Territoriality/Predator/Prey Relations:

Though some snappers are social animals, feeding and traveling in schools, most are best maintained one to a tank in captivity. They get along fine with other species that are too large to be ingested. Snappers are definitely not reef tank additions, getting too big and eating smaller fishes and critters.


After quarantine, or at least a freshwater dip-bath, snappers may be unceremoniously transferred via a soft net or covered container into the main/display unit. Be aware that they will hide for a period of days to a few weeks, possibly without feeding much or at all. This "scared-dog" conduct is normal for snappers and may be shortened by attention to decor and feeding.

Feeding/Foods/Nutrition: Types, Frequency, Amount, Wastes

A snapper that does not accept food is rare; a periodic food strike shouldn't worry you however, and all will accept meaty items after acclimation. In the wild snappers feed on small fishes and non-vertebrates; in aquariums they readily adapt to frozen squid, crustaceans, Lancetfish, shellfish...

Disease: Infectious, Parasitic, Nutritional, Genetic, Social

Snappers are typically clean on arrival, and amongst the last fishes in a system to catch and succumb to usual environmental, parasitic and infectious diseases. They respond well to basic remedies (copper, dips, specific gravity manipulation) for crypt and velvet.


What more could you ask for in the way of a show specimen for your marine set-up? The only real negative aspect of keeping snappers is their growth and size; both of which you can control by feeding sized portions one to three times a week.

You might not see them often at your dealers, due to lack of folks asking for them, but the snappers (except for Macolor) make great fish-only system specimens; if you have the space.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Allen, Gerald R., 1985. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 6. Snappers of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of Lutjanid species known to date. FAO Fish Synop. (125) Vol. 6

Burgess, Warren E., Herbert R. Axelrod & Raymond E. Hunziker III, 1990. Atlas of Aquarium Fishes, v.1, Marine. T.F.H. Publications, NJ.

Fenner, Robert. 1997. Put a tiger in your tank. Keeping Snappers. TFH 2/97.

Nelson, Joseph S., 19934. Fishes of the World, 3rd ed.. Wiley, NY.

Randall, John E., 1968. Caribbean Reef Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, NJ.

Tinker, Spencer W. 1978. Fishes of Hawaii. Hawaiian Service. 

To: part 1, part II,

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