Powder-brown tang

Powder-brown tang, Acanthurus japonicus

Although a vast number of saltwater fishes flourish in Asian waters, relatively few are restricted to them, otherwise being found also in Australia, East Africa, Hawaii, and other parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Found only from the island of Sulawesi and the Philippines, north to Okinawa and Southern Japan, the Powder-brown or White-faced tang is truly an Asian fish. It can be mistaken for the more widespread, but harder to keep, Gold-rimmed tang A. nigricans, which has less white on its face.

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Blotchy anthias

Blotchy anthias, Odontanthias borbonius

This fairy basslet is very rare in American aquariums, because it is normally found at depths of 600 to 900 feet, so is difficult and dangerous to collect. It has a wide range, from South Africa (where it lives with Coelacanths!) to Japan and the Palau Islands. It commonly swims upside down, beneath rock formations.

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Japanese swallowtail angelfish

Japanese swallowtail angelfish, Genicanthus semifasciatus

The males and females of all swallowtail angels differ in color, but in this case, the difference is so extreme that the male was given the species’ scientific name in 1934, while the female was described as “Holacanthus fuscosus” in 1970. Only aquarium observations confirmed they were the same species. In Japan, this species is found only in Okinawa and “The Seven Islands of Izu” (of which there are actually around a dozen). It is also found off Taiwan and the Philippines.

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Wrought-iron butterflyfish

Wrought-iron butterflyfish, Chaetodon daedalma

Very few of these unique butterflyfish have ever been kept in North America. While many of their relatives are found across vast areas of the Pacific, this dramatically colored species is found only in the Izu and Ogasawara islands of southern Japan, where it can be very common. Because this is a plankton-eating butterflyfish, rather than a polyp-eater, it is one of the easier members of its family to maintain in aquariums.

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Spotted garden eel

Spotted garden eel, Heteroconger hassi

Garden eels are small specialized members of the conger eel family. Found in tropical waters scattered around the world, they lead a hobbit-like existence, each to its own hole, which adults never completely leave, even to spawn or eat. Colonies, which can include hundreds, are situated so currents bring plankton towards them. Their eggs are carried out into the ocean where the larvae travel far. This species is thus found all the way from the Red Sea to Samoa. Their burrows are reinforced with slime secreted from the tail.

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