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.
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.
The DWA was one of the first facilities in the US to successfully maintain and display these beautifully ornate relatives of the seahorse. Due to their specialized dietary and habitat requirements, this species has not reproduced successfully in an aquarium environment. The DWA is an industry leader in the husbandry of this species and hopes to help find the key to their reproduction in the future. Leafy and Weedy seadragons are strictly protected and export is carefully regulated.
Like its better-known relative, the Leafy seadragon, the Weedy seadragon is considered a highly specialized pipefish, rather than a true seahorse. The males of all pipefishes and seahorses receive the eggs from the female after they are laid and brood them until they hatch. Unlike male seahorses who store eggs in a brood pouch, seadragons attach eggs to a brood patch. The Weedy seadragon is the Marine Emblem of the Australian State of Victoria while the “Leafy” is the Marine Emblem for South Australia.
The Ribbon seadragon, more accurately described as a pipehorse, is a close relative of the seahorses and pipefish. Depicted as the “Rainbow serpent” in the Aboriginal rock art of Arnhem Land, the Ribbon seadragon was believed to have special powers. In 2006, The DWA became the first aquarium in the world to successfully breed this relatively unknown species. Like other Syngnathids, the Ribbon seadragon feeds on very small shrimp known as mysid shrimp. Unlike their cousins the Leafy (Phycodurus eques) and Weedy seadragons (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus), the male Ribbon seadragon possesses a pouch and can give birth to more than 800 fully developed offspring at a time.
Bangaii cardinalfish are small striped fish that can easily camouflage themselves in the spines of sea urchin. Like other members of the cardinalfish family, male Banggai cardinalfish are mouth brooders. Once the eggs hatch, the male incubates the young fry in his mouth for up to one month. Because of this breeding behavior, Banggai cardinalfish have become very popular in the aquarium hobby.
By pressing its tongue against a bony groove in the roof of its mouth, an archerfish can shoot a jet of water as far as ten feet to knock down the insects it eats. Possessing remarkable eyesight, they can also compensate for defraction, so they have excellent aim. They are typical inhabitants of mangrove swamps and river mouths in Southeast Asia and other parts of the Western Pacific. This species tolerates a wide range of salinities, including freshwater.
Native to the Mekong delta, in Southeast Asia, this species has long been popular in home aquariums, though, with a potential of reaching four feet in length, it outgrows most of them and is often offered to public aquariums as a “donation”. More recently, it has become an important food fish around the world, exported in vast amounts from Vietnam. In US markets it is sold as “Swai” or “Basa”, due to pressure from American catfish farmers.
Described to science in 1844, it was thought there was only a single species of Asian arowana until 2003, when a team of three ichthyologists determined that there were actually four species. These had previously been considered color phases (like black leopards or jaguars, or white tigers). This classification is controversial. All populations of the Asian arowana are considered endangered, primarily due to habitat destruction. In the past, they were considered threatened by the commercial aquarium trade, but farm-raised specimens, sold micro-chipped, with “birth certificates” now supply the demand for these “Dragon Fishes”, which, in some Asian traditions, are considered to bring luck to businesses where they are kept.
Though the Silver and Black arowanas of South America, and the Asian and Australian arowanas resemble each other, and share the behavior of brooding their eggs and fry in their mouths, they last shared a common ancestor around 170 million years ago, when the great Southern Continent Gondwana began to split apart. This took place in the Jurassic period, when dinosaurs still thrived. Although Asian arowanas are endangered, South American ones are abundant, and are important both to subsistence fishing and the sustainable aquarium trade.