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Related FAQs: Goatfishes

Related Articles:  Goatfishes of Indonesia,

/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

Mulling Over the Goatfishes, Family Mullidae, Part I

Part II, Part III

By Bob Fenner

  Parupeneus cyclostomus

Of all the groups of marine fishes that go under-appreciated as aquarium specimens the Goatfishes rank near the top. As to hardiness, they are tough; food fickleness?, never a problem. Looking for a character item for your set-up? These fishes are ever-active, bustling along, stirring up the bottom in search of edibles. Are they ugly, expensive, hard to come by? None of the above. They're comically shaped and many are brightly colored; and there are bunches of them to be found that are easily collected.

My only explanation for the Goatfishes lack of popularity is the founder (or is that flounder?) effect; not many folks have had much exposure to them... and so they don't promote their keeping and therefore don't have much exposure... So let's start changing that right here and now; Dear Reader, the Goatfishes.

Classification: Taxonomy, Relation With Other Groups

The members of this family are characterized by general torpedo-shaped bodies, that are triangular in cross-section, and the presence of to long, firm, unbranched barbels below the chin on their small, sub-terminal (underslung) mouths. Adding to their elongated appearance are the two widely separated dorsal fins, the first with 6-8 spines and the second shorter one with a single spine and 8,9 soft rays.

Mullids make up some 56 species in six genera; those most often encountered in the trade are members of the genera Upeneus and Mulloides; they are generally offered under the common moniker "Goatfish". All species have proven to be good for captive systems and similar in their care and habits.

Genus Mulloidichthys:

Mulloidichthys dentatus (Gill 1862), the Mexican Goatfish. Tropical eastern Pacific. To about a foot in length. These ones at Baja Mexico's tip, Cabo San Lucas. Again (after a ten year idiotic collecting ban) occasionally collected for the aquarium hobby. 

Mulloidichthys flavolineatus (Lacepede 1801), the Yellowstripe Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea over to the Hawaiian Islands. To a maximum of seventeen inches in length. Below: the first one a juvenile off Two-Step, Kona, the second in Maui, and a small pair in the Cooks.
Mulloidichthys martinicus (Cuvier 1829), the Yellow Goatfish. Tropical west Atlantic. To sixteen inches in length. One in St. Lucia, the others off the Bahamas. An occasional import from Caribbean collectors.


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Mulloidichthys vanicolensis (Valenciennes 1831), the Yellowfin Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to Hawai'i. To fifteen inches in length. The first one in the upper Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, a second in the Cooks, and a third showing their "pink" color in Hawai'i. 
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Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available)

Genus Parupeneus

Parupeneus barberinoides (Bleeker 1852), the Bicolor Goatfish. Western Pacific. To one foot in length. A handsome species of considerable use in the aquarium interest. Here is one in a commercial aquarium set-up, and one "on the reef" in Fiji.

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Parupeneus barberinus (Lacepede 1801), the Dash and Dot Goatfish. Indo-Pacific to the Tuamotus, but not the Red Sea. To two feet in length. Not a misprint. Shown during the day and night in Fiji.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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Parupeneus bifasciatus (Lacepede 1801), the Double-Bar Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i. To fourteen inches in length. Pulau Redang, Malaysia, N. Sulawesi, and Hawai'i photos.
Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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Parupeneus ciliatus (Lacepede 1802), the Whitesaddle Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, to the Tuamotus, but not Hawai'i or the Red Sea. To fifteen inches in length. An occasional import into the pet-fish trade. Image taken in Fiji.

Part II, Part III

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