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Related FAQs: Marine Life of the Tropical West Atlantic, Tropical West Atlantic 2

Related Articles: TWA Invertebrates, Algae, Vascular Plants, Introduction to Fishwatcher's Guide Series Pieces/Sections, Lachnolaimus maxiumus/Hogfish, Hogfishes of the Genus Bodianus

The Tropical West Atlantic: Bahamas to Brazil, Part 6

To: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11,


Bob Fenner  

Lizardfishes, Family Synodontidae. Found lurking about on the bottom, or even scooting along with divers, hoping for a distracted fish meal.

Synodus intermedius (Spix & Agassiz 1829), the Sand Diver. To 46 cm., 1 kg maximum. Western Atlantic. Most common lizardfish there. Typically found on the sand, near boulders. One in Cancun, Mexico, and a profile of one off Bonaire.

Pomacanthidae, Marine Angelfishes. All but one of the seven species of pomacanthids found here are tough and all are valued as aquarium specimens. The two dwarf or pygmy angels of the genus Centropyge are highly desired. The Cherubfish, C. argi (1) and Flameback Angelfish, C. aurontonota (1), stay small (3" max.) 'but can hold their own with all types of marine life.

Ecotype: typically deep (80+') in and amongst heavy growths of corals and gorgonians.

The "midsize" TWA member, the Rock Beauty, Holacanthus tricolor (3), is the one "problem child" species that frequently "gives up the ghost" mysteriously or stops feeding. As with all angels, it's best to start with a small (few inches in this case) specimen and train it on aquarium foods.

The remaining four true species of West Atlantic angels, attain a good foot and a half in length, and therefore require large quarters. Both the French, Pomacanthus paru (1), and Gray, P. arcuatus (1), start off as gorgeous young, but the former remains a striker with the Gray turning somber shades of its namesake. The Blue, Holacanthus bermudensis (1), and Queen, H. ciliaris (1), both start and finish good looking, the Queen retaining her "crown" with age.

Ecotype: Definite territories on patch and contiguous reefs, defended against similar appearing fishes.

Centropyge argi Woods & Kanazawa 1951, the Cherub or Atlantic (Caribbean) Pygmy Angel (1). To 2.5" overall. Bermuda on down to the coast of Brazil. Aquarium and a Cozumel, Mexico pix of  more adult, more juvenile individuals. 

Centropyge aurantonotus Burgess 1974, the ( Brazilian) Flameback Angel (1) is very much like the more northerly Centropyge argi with more orange color on its back, at a much higher price. Found in southern part of the Caribbean Sea. Note the dark blue caudal fin, distinguishing it from C. acanthops. To 2.5" overall length. Pix by Hiroyuki Tanaka and RMF.

Holacanthus tricolor (Bloch 1795), the (Atlantic) Rock Beauty (3). The one "stinker" in the bunch. Most specimens die "mysteriously" from the effects of capture and lack of nutrition... place yours in an established live rock tank, and get it to feed immediately. To eight inches in length. Below: Juvenile in aquarium, semi and full adult in the Bahamas.

Holacanthus bermudensis Goode 1876, the Blue Angelfish (1). Often confused price-wise with the Queen Angelfish, whose juveniles have bent mid-body bars and adults are much more colorful overall. Hybrids between the two abound. Patchy distribution in the tropical west Atlantic. To thirteen inches or so in length. Below: Juvenile and mid-size adult in captivity, adult off of Florida shown.


Holacanthus ciliaris (Linnaeus 1758), the Queen Angelfish (1). A true queen of fishes. To seventeen inches in the wild. Florida to Brazil in the tropical west Atlantic. Juvenile in captivity and adult in the wild (Bahamas) shown.

Pomacanthus arcuatus Gray 1831, the Gray Angelfish (1). A beauty as a juvenile (shown). Tropical west Atlantic, Bahamas to Brazil. To a foot and a half in length, friendly and long-lived in captivity. Juvenile and sub-adult in the wild.

Pomacanthus paru (Bloch 1787), the French Angelfish (1). Another standard in the aquarium trade. Beautiful and hardy, and large (to fifteen inches in length and a foot tall). Tropical west Atlantic from the Bahamas to Brazil. Pictured: a three inch juvenile in captivity, foot long adult in Belize.

The Damselfishes, Family Pomacentridae. It's a shame that due to the vagaries of economics and airline schedules that a few more of the damsels of the TWA don't make it more into pet-fish markets. Of the few that are regularly available the Yellowtail, Microspathodon chrysurus (1), is a real giant, attaining some seven inches in length; start with a smallish one.

Ecotype: The Sergeant Major and Blue Damsels tend to be mid water or over reefs of mid to shallow depths. Other damsels mentioned occupy rock-rubble and coral habitats.

Genus Abudefduf: The Sergeant Major, Abudefduf saxatilis (1), used to be a standard in the trade a few decades back. This is a sturdy, albeit black and silvery-white fish, with a real gusto for swimming about; well worth the extra cost compared with Pacific possibilities.

Abudefduf saxatilis (Linnaeus 1758), the Sergeant Major. Both Atlantic coasts to cooler waters. To six inches in length. This one from the Bahamas. Very similar to the Indo-west Pacific Abudefduf vaigensis, discerned by its further back fourth black body bar.

There are a few delightful Chromis from the region, and it's a shame they're not available more often. I'd sell the Blue Chromis, C. cyanea (1), Yellowtail Reeffish, C. enchrysurus (1), Brown Chromis, C. multilineata (1), and Sunshinefish, C. insolata (1), all day long. These are all hardy, stay somewhat colorful and only moderately "mean".

Chromis cyanea (Poey 1860), the Blue Chromis. One of actually a few species with this common appellation. This one hails from the tropical west Atlantic. To four inches in length. One off the coast of Bimini and another off Cancun.

Chromis multilineata (Guichenot 1853), the Yellow-Edge Chromis. Tropical west Atlantic. To about four inches maximum length. This is another unintentional catch Damsel offered infrequently. One in St. Lucia, another off Bonaire where the species is a common reef inhabitant.

Chromis insolata (Cuvier 1830), the Olive Chromis. An incidental Damsel shipped out of the tropical western Atlantic from time to time. To about five inches maximum length. A juvenile in Cozumel and adult one in the Bahamas.

Genus Microspathodon:

Microspathodon chrysurus (Cuvier 1830), the Yellowtail Damselfish, Atlantic Jewel Damsel. Tropical west Atlantic. To six inches in length. Shown are a juvenile (about 1") with a clear caudal fin, an intermediate (2"), and adult (four inch) specimen in the Bahamas.

The genus Stegastes (2) is another matter. Folks do sell good numbers of juvenile Beau Gregorys, S. leucostictus, and a few (but growing) number of Cocoa Damsels, S. variabilis, Threespot Damsels (Atlantic), S. planifrons, and Bicolors, S. partitus as good-looking juveniles. But all except the latter become dull brownish with age, and they are MEAN; territorial to the nth degree.

Stegastes diencaeus (Jordan & Rutter 1897), the Longfin Damsel. Tropical west Atlantic. To five inches in length. Occasionally imported and sold as juveniles. Adults an overall brown with dark margins on all scales. Juveniles in the Bahamas and St. Thomas.

Stegastes fuscus (Cuvier 1830), the Dusky or Brazilian Damselfish. Tropical West Atlantic (and eastern, off Senegal). To five inches in length. Feeds on benthic algae, hydroids, algae, copepods by day. Adult off of Cozumel. 

Stegastes partitus (Poey 1868), the Bicolor Damselfish. Tropical west Atlantic. To two and a half inches in length. Occasionally imported for our use. Not tremendously beautiful looks-wise, but an interesting aquarium species just the same. St. Lucia and Cancun photographs.

Stegastes planifrons (Cuvier 1830), the Three-Spot (Atlantic) Damsel. Tropical west Atlantic. To three and a half inches overall length. Juveniles, with their bright yellow bodies and bold black body spots are occasionally caught for aquarium use... ultimately turning into bland brown behemoths. Juvenile and sub-adult in the Bahamas. Full size one that bit me in Cozumel.
Stegastes variabilis (Castelnau 1855), the Cocoa Damselfish. Tropical west Atlantic. To three inches long. Similar to Beaubrummel, but juveniles bear a distinct black ocellus after their dorsal fins. Adults yellowish below, grading to brown above. Juv. and adult images taken in the Bahamas. 

To: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11,

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