Considered difficult-to-keep, anthias are some of the most beautiful fishes available to the marine aquarist. Understanding their needs makes it possible to have success.
Anthias or fairy basses are generally considered difficult-to-keep, delicate marine aquarium fishes. There is, however, no reason the aquarist prepared to meet their dietary and environmental requirements can’t have success with them. Sometimes called fancy sea basses, these small colorful fishes form large shoals on tropical reefs, and a small group of them in a large aquarium can be a stunning site. Below are some essential husbandry techniques for successfully keeping these beautiful fishes.
Anthias from the Genus Pseudanthias (False Anthias)
This article deals with those fishes commonly called anthias in the hobby. Ironically, the so-called anthias in the hobby are usually from the genus Pseudanthias (false anthias) in the Subfamily Anthiinae. According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are twenty-five genera in the subfamily. Only a few of these genera are seen with any frequency in the marine ornamental trade.
Anthias are considered difficult to keep in an aquarium largely because they are extremely active and require frequent feedings in order to sustain their activity. Multiple feedings per day are a must, and the addition of a mature refugium is highly recommended. Even with a refugium, plan to feed anthias a diet of small meaty foods (e.g., frozen mysid shrimp or other foods for marine carnivores) at least three times per day.
Keeping a Group of Anthias Together in the Saltwater Aquarium
In addition to their nutritional needs, anthias are also very competitive fishes, and aggression amongst individuals can be extreme. The reason for this is that all the commonly seen anthias species are protogynous hermaphrodites, whereby all individuals begin life as females and then may change sex based on certain social situations. The resulting complex social rankings make keeping more than one anthias of the same species (or even the same genus) difficult unless one understands exactly what he or she is doing. For the best chances of success, keep only one male anthias per tank with an even number of females.
An Anthias-Ready Aquarium Reduces Stress
Anthias are easily stressed, and that stress often leads to both bacterial and protozoan infections and infestations to which anthias are prone. To avoid undue stress, plan to keep anthias in a large aquarium (one fish per 40 gallons) with plenty of live rock and high flow. Filtration (including a protein skimmer) should be robust in order to keep water quality high. A cover (preferably of egg crate) is recommended, as anthias are known jumpers.
Tankmates for anthias should only include peaceful community fishes in a fish-only (FOWLR) or reef tank. In a reef tank, beware of certain invertebrates like a few of the larger anemones (e.g., carpet anemones (Stichodactyla spp.), corkscrew anemones (Macrodactyla doreensis)) which may prey on smaller anthias.
Popular Species of Anthias
The popular Bartlett’s anthias (P. bartlettorum) is generally considered to be the hardiest of the anthias and makes an excellent first anthias. Other popular anthias species in the genus include the bicolor anthias (P. bicolor), the dispar anthias (P. dispar), the Evan’s anthias (P. evansi), the lyretail anthias (P. squamipinnis), the one-stripe anthias (P. fasciatus), the purple queen anthias (P. tuka), the Randall’s anthias (P. randalli), the square anthias (P. pleurotaenia), the Hutchii anthias (p. huchtii), the tri-color anthias (P. rubrizonatus), and the yellowlined anthias (P. luzonensis).