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Related FAQs: the Basses called Hamlets

Related Articles: Basses

/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

To Be, Or Not To Be...
 Is a Hamlet Right For You?

The Basses Called Hamlets, Genus Hypoplectrus

Bob Fenner

 A Hypoplectrus gummigutta

Amongst the smaller basses and bass-like fishes there are many good choices for easier-going fish only to all-out reef systems. Even just from the tropical West Atlantic one has the three Grammas, the lovely Liopropomas and genus Serranus basslets to choose from and the genus of this article to consider, the Hypoplectrus commonly named Hamlets. While there is still controversy re how many species are represented, there is no doubt that this group of small serranids spans a wide range of attractively marked and colored types.  

            Undemanding, and for the bass family, easy-going, Hamlets are good choices for many folks; not requiring large systems or specialized care, nor being inclined to chew on sedentary invertebrate livestock or other fishes.

Hypoplectrus chlorurus (Cuvier 1828), the Yellowtail Hamlet. Western central Atlantic. To five inches overall length. Feeds primarily on crustaceans and small fishes in the wild. Here is one photographed off Bonaire.

Hypoplectrus gemma Goode & Bean 1882, the Blue Hamlet. Florida endemic in the western central Atlantic. To four inches in length. Pictured here is a slightly washed out aquarium specimen. Wild ones much more vibrant blue. Aquarium pic.

Hypoplectrus guttavarius (Poey 1852), the Golden Hamlet. Spottily distributed in the tropical west Atlantic. To five inches in length. A common Hamlet offering in the pet trade. This one photographed in the Bahamas.

Hypoplectrus indigo (Poey 1851), the Indigo Hamlet. Central western Atlantic in many places. To five and a half inches. Another of the more common aquarium Hamlets. This one in the Bahamas

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Hypoplectrus nigricans (Poey 1852), the Black Hamlet. Tropical western Atlantic. To six inches in length. This photo made in the Bahamas.

Hypoplectrus puella (Cuvier 1828), the Barred Hamlet. To six inches overall length... Found in... the tropical west Atlantic. One in the Cozumel.

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Hypoplectrus unicolor (Walbaum 1792), the Butter Hamlet. Western Atlantic; Florida. To five inches in length. Identified in the field by distinctive caudal saddle and yellow pelvic fins. Right: Bahamas and St. Thomas pix. Below: series in St. Thomas.

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Hypoplectrus sp., an unknown (to me) Hamlet. This metallic blue individual was found in Belize... near Placencia to the south there are many of this type... More fuel to the fire that perhaps all Hamlets are one and the same species? A beauty nonetheless.

Hypoplectrus sp. (and crosses possibly, below), the Tan Hamlet. Golden brown overall color except for a bluish streak on the fore part of the pectoral fins. St. Thomas. 

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            Hamlets almost always arrive in good condition to and through dealers. These small fishes are not hard to find or net even on the proverbial fly. Hypoplectrus need to be individually housed which adds a bit to expense, but they do ship well Two factors impinge on their availability w/in the trade that account for their paucity in pet-fish markets. One is diver pay its low for these fishes and tied in with this is LFS demand This genus just doesnt hold its coloration very well losing intensity in days time without attention to nutrition and water quality. And so such specimens linger and languish, and so ultimately does demand.


            Due to their small size, Hamlets dont pose much of a threat to tankmates of any but small size. Some shrimps, an occasional hermit might be inhaled, as might very small fishes, but these fishes will not take a bite out of your livestock and chew it.

            Large-mouthed predators like Lions and kin, Morays, larger basses and more might be inclined to swallow your Hypoplectrus however.

            A biotope incorporating algae, invertebrates and other fish species occupying the same area as your Hamlet would be the very best set-up incorporating medium lighting and current Information on what this area looks like, the biological make-up can be found in books and the Net For fishes, fishbase.org, with a search by country in the Caribbean.


            If and when you get on out to the Caribbean or even the Atlantic side of Florida, try taking a look-see at the Hamlets home they are easily spotted and followed, even in shallow water. Moving in short (a foot or two) swims to another spot, hesitating, then heading off to the next spot. Overall, the space these bottom hovers cover can be several square meters, but dont despair, other than hiding a good deal of the time, Hamlets adjust well to systems of four to six feet in length.

            Reef systems are the place for Hypoplectrus; this is where they are found in the wild skirting under and amongst sea fans, sponges and stony coral outgrowths. An ideal set-up would be a tropical West Atlantic biotope.


            By and large Hamlets are not picky feeders. Small (mouth-sized) meaty bits, or whole live or not crustacean fare suits them well. They can even easily be trained on to dried-prepared foods of high palatability. Feedings of small size twice daily are about right for these fishes.  


            True to their bass origins the Hamlets are remarkably pathogenic disease resistant. Of all your fish livestock, your Hypoplectrus will likely be the last to show signs of parasitism or infection. Should your system itself contract a protozoan complaint, the Hamlets are efficaciously treated with chelated copper compounds.


            The Hamlets have been a greatly underutilized group of small basses in marine aquariums. The reasons for this under-representation are not due to a lack of resource/population on their part, difficulty in their capture or handling and definitely not from issues of suitability. There are many beautiful varieties/species that are and stay small and non-quarrelsome Theyre disease resistant, easily fed and interesting behaviorally to boot. 

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Michael, Scott W. 1997. The Hamlets. Many colors, but how many species? AFM 7/97.

Miller, Gary. 1987. Serranids of the Caribbean. FAMA 2/87.

Thresher, Ronald. 1976. Hamlets. Marine Aquarist 7:6, 76.

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