Blackeye goby

Blackeye goby, Rhinogobiops nicholsii

The body of the Blackeye goby (Rhinogobiops nicholsii) is usually a light beige to olive in color with darker spots and mottling. The body coloration and its spots can change if needed. A thick black edge can be seen on the fore-dorsal fin. The raised, big black eyes are responsible for its common name.

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Pot-bellied seahorse

Pot-bellied seahorse, Hippocampus abdominalis

Pot-bellied seahorses, as the name suggests, have a large swollen belly. Like other seahorses, this species comes in a wide range of colors – brown, yellow, gray, white, orange or mottled with dark spots on its head and trunk. They have a forward-tilted, long-snouted head, eyes that can move independently of each other and a prehensile tail. Males and females differ in appearance. Males have a longer tail, a shorter snout and a smooth soft pouch-like area at the base of the abdomen. Females have more of a pointed stomach.

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Jaguar cichlid

Jaguar cichlid, Parachromis managuense

Many aquarists who encounter this species in pet stores are unaware that an engaging inch-long juvenile can quickly grow over a foot in length, devouring any size-appropriate tank mates in the process. Because of its intelligence and bold personality, it remains one of the most popular New World cichlids in home aquariums. In its native Nicaragua, where it is known as Guapote tigre, it is also very popular, especially grilled or deep-fried, with garlic.

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Jack Dempsey cichlid

Jack Dempsey cichlid, Rocio octofasciata

Described for science in 1903, this species was imported by the Umlauff Pet Store in Hamburg, Germany in 1904, making it one of the earliest cichlids kept in aquariums. Despite being large, aggressive, and prone to dig up plants, it has always been popular in home aquariums, especially after it received its common name in honor of the famous World Heavyweight boxer (1895-1983). Actually found from Southern Mexico to Honduras, it was long mistakenly thought to be South American, and misidentified as Cichlasoma biocellatum.

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Four-eyed butterflyfish

Four-eyed butterflyfish, Chaetodon capistratus

The “false eye” on the flanks of this fish is much larger than the real one in its head. This is a classic example of a distraction pattern which misleads predators into aiming for the rear of the fish, rather than its head. Similar eye-like spots are seen in other fishes and many insects. This is an abundant species in the Caribbean and the Southern Gulf of Mexico. In the summer, young specimens drift up the Atlantic coast with plankton, as far north as New England. This species has been popular in public aquariums for more than a hundred years.

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Clarion angelfish

Clarion angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis

While many angelfish have broad ranges in the Pacific or Atlantic, others are found in only a few locations. One of the more famous is this beautiful species, named for Clarion, one of the Revillagigedo Islands off the Pacific coast of Mexico. These islands are its center of distribution, but they are also found around remote Clipperton Island, and occasionally around the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Though kept in aquariums for more than 40 years, it remains a prized exhibit, collected only under special permit from the Mexican Government.

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Longsnout seahorse

Longsnout seahorse, Hippocampus reidi

Of the three Caribbean seahorse species found in US waters, this one has the smallest distribution, being absent from the Gulf of Mexico. In the US, it is found only in North Carolina and the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Its range extends to Brazil, where it is an important species in the tropical fish trade. It is also called the Brazilian or Slender seahorse. Like most seahorses, the color can be highly variable, but tends towards bright yellows and oranges. Its favored habitat is seagrass beds and mangroves.

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Spotted moray eel

Spotted moray eel, Gymnothorax moringa

The 200 or so species of eels in the moray family have long fascinated humans. In the time of Julius Caesar, Romans kept their local species as status symbol pets in specially built pools at their Mediterranean villas. One kept thousands, and another held a funeral when his favorite pet died. Today they are popular with divers and snorkelers. Found in tropical and temperate seas around the world, they seize their prey with a unique set of “double jaws” (the second pair being in the pharynx). This species grows to seven feet, and is found in the Tropical Atlantic.

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Zebra angelfish

Zebra angelfish, Genicanthus caudovittatus

In contrast to many other angelfish, which live in pairs, swallowtail angels, in the genus Genicanthus live like fairy basslets, with a dominant male guarding a harem of females. As with fairy basslets, if the male dies, the dominant female will become male and take charge of the harem. This species is found only in the Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean. Only the male has the zebra pattern but only the female has the black stripes at the top and bottom of the tail, commemorated by the Latin name “caudovitatu”, which means “striped tail”.

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Napoleon wrasse

Napoleon wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus

Named for its profile reminiscent of a French military cap, this fish is also known as the Humphead, and Maori wrasse (for its intricate cheek designs that look tattooed), and, because of its enormous size, Truck wrasse. The largest of all the wrasses, males can grow more than six feet in length and weigh over 300 pounds. In common with many other large Indo-Pacific reef fishes, it has been over-exploited by Chinese restaurants that serve live fishes. Trade of this animal is protected under CITES.

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