Eight rare fish babies have gone on display in a special nursery tank at Blue Reef Aquarium – complete with its own sea urchins.
The Banggai cardinal fish have all been captive bred, however in the wild the babies spend a lot of their early lives among the long spines of a sea urchin which protect them from would-be predators.
The tropical fish, which is black and white with long fins, is found only on the coral reefs of the Banggai islands midway between the Philippines and Australia.
Blue Reef’s Leanna Lawson said: “Banggai cardinal fish were first discovered in the 1930s living among coral reefs off a series of tiny Indonesian islands. To date they have not been discovered anywhere else in the world. This obviously makes them extremely rare and we are hoping that, once they have matured, we will be able to breed a new generation in captivity. The youngsters are still only about three centimetres long but all of them are feeding well and we’re very optimistic that they will continue to thrive.”
Known as mouth brooders, cardinal fish are among the world’s most attentive parents. Following a complex mating ritual the father holds fertilised eggs in his mouth until they hatch.
Once the young have hatched, their fathers spit them into a long spined sea urchin where they will continue to live, without any further parental care but protected by the spines of the urchin.
Their black and white stripes allow them to be perfectly camouflaged among the spines of their nursery sea urchin, safe from any would-be predators. The fish are part of a group of new arrivals at the Rock-a-Nore Road aquarium. Other juvenile species include butterfly fish and goat fish.