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The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

The Longnose Hawkfish, Oxycirrhites typus

by Bob Fenner

At home in the Red Sea

 

A species that used to be hard to find, and expensive, being collected for the trade in the west almost exclusively at depths in Hawai'i, the Longnosed Hawkfish is now within modest means and readily available. Unlike most of the other Hawkfish family, Oxycirrhites typus is more secretive and less likely (though still capable) of eating small crustaceans. Like all cirrhitids it is bright, intelligent, frisky at times, disease resistant and a real character. Not for all types of systems, the Longnose is fine in most larger reef settings on down to peaceful fish only systems.

Classification:

Hawkfishes, family Cirrhitidae, comprise some twenty seven species in nine genera. Their overall distribution range is principally the Indo-Pacific with two species in the tropical West and East Atlantic. All Hawkfishes are marine. Most species are found in shallow water with some to a few hundred feet. The Longnose Hawk itself is found widely throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific; the Red Sea, eastern Africa, to Southern Japan, Noumea over to the Eastern Pacific; the lower third of the Sea of Cortez, northern Columbia down to the Galapagos. Never common in its range, at times one has to dive deep outer reef slopes and search about large gorgonians and black coral stands to find it.

    Superficially Hawkfishes look like Rockfishes/Scorpionfishes/Lionfishes (family Scorpaenidae) with the except of lacking the latter's prominent head spines. Hawkfishes have a continuous hard and soft dorsal fin of ten spines, often with cirri (see above photo: they look like small pom-poms) at their tips. Ray counts are eleven to seventeen for the soft dorsal fin, five to seven soft rays for anal fins. They have 26 to 28 vertebrae. The pectoral fins are distinctive in having elongated, unbranched lower rays. Their tail fins are squared off, or truncate in scientific jargon.

Another important trait for ornamental marine collectors is that cirrhitid family members lack swim bladders; allowing them to be rapidly decompressed after capture. A real bonus instead of waiting out in bouncy seas for decompression of your catch, particularly ones from deeper water that take considerable time to adapt.

The Long-Nose Hawkfish, Oxycirrhites typus (Bleeker 1857), The Hawkfish most hobbyists have seen and want. Found in the Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i, This superlatively suitable aquarium species reaches approximately five inches in total length. Red Sea image. 

Environment:

Longnose Hawkfish are almost always found skirting about lacey fan-shaped stinging-celled animals, particularly sea fans and black corals. Providing yours with such structure, alive, skeletal or faux is highly recommended, though this species is highly adaptable, and will learn to live in caves, overhangs and on perches in your system. Oxycirrhites need room... a space of at least an uncrowded sixty gallons, better in a hundred. Other than this habitat proviso no special consideration is required; just standard marine aquarium set-up and regular maintenance.

Despite their, at times, secretive nature, possession of large eyes and nocturnal habits, Longnose Hawkfishes adapt to well-lit aquarium conditions (Takeshita 1975). Though the species ranges down to 100 meters in depth distribution, most are collected from near their minimum, ten meters or so, in Micronesia.

Behavior: Territoriality:

Longnose Hawkfishes are fine with other fish species as long as their tankmates are large enough than mouth size, though sometimes they can become territorial after being in the same system a long time. Occasional shifting, addition or removal of part of their habitat alleviates this problem. They may chase other fishes, but rarely do any damage. However, in general it is not a good idea to mix Hawkfishes due to territoriality. To put this bluntly, unless your system is huge (several hundreds of gallons), one Hawk to a tank is the rule, and it is best added later, latest to reduce territorial tension.

Tankmates:

Regarding reef systems: Most Hawkfishes have relatively large jaws and sharp teeth that are ideal devices for capturing crustacea. As far as Cirrhitid species go, the Longnose, with its much smaller mouth is about the most ideal reef addition, though they can/will eat small crustaceans and worms. Small molting hermits and featherduster worms have been consumed in captivity by Oxycirrhites. For reefers, this Hawkfish like its brethren will leave most all stinging-celled life alone, but itself can become a meal if mis-placed with very strong stinging corals like Catalaphyllia or Sea Anemones. Other cnidarians can be bothered to excess from Hawkfish settling behavior, causing polyps to close up... so, careful colony placement, larger systems are desirable.

    Good tankmate choices include Dwarf Angels (as long as they're not too small), Pseudochromids/Dottybacks, most Damselfishes, larger Gobies and Blennies, mid-size wrasses, Butterflyfishes, Anthias, Clownfishes... Mid-temperament and sized fishes overall... as well as invertebrates other than mouth-sized crustaceans and worms. Again, due to their at times territorial nature, Hawkfish should be the last placed specimens in a collection.

Foods/Feeding/Nutrition:

Longnoses, like other Hawkfishes spend most of their time perched on a rock, sea fan or piece of coral, waiting to make a short fast rush at a food item. Their conical teeth are modified for grasping benthic and free-swimming crustaceans, their principal wild foodstuffs. In captivity most specimens readily learn to accept  live, fresh, frozen/defrosted and some prepared foods readily; with only brief training.

Disease:

Hawkfishes en toto are typically "clean" of pathogenic disease and have low parasite loads. They are not particularly sensitive to therapeutic agents or treatment regimens. Quarantine and a prophylactic dip are suggested as always.

Other fishes in the system will typically show symptoms of disease before your hawks, and succumb from the same ahead of them.

Reproduction:

The Longnose hawk is known to lay demersal (bottom) eggs (Randall 1981). Takeshita (1975) describes a courtship dance among a pair in captivity in the early evenings. He also gives notes regarding sexual differences. Briefly; males being smaller, more colorful, with black margins on the pelvic and caudal fins. All cirrhitids studied are protogynous synchronous hermaphrodites... starting life as females, turning into males later... Some species of Hawkfishes live in haremic conditions, but Longnoses occur in monogamous relations. Pairs have been formed in captivity, spawned (laying demersal eggs, not planktonic), but as yet, young have not been raised to maturity. If you're interested in trying a pairing, spawning, it's advised to introduce two animals at the same time, of about the same size, and watch them closely for overly-agonistic behavior.

Summary:


Have room for a colorful, comical aquatic acrobat in your otherwise peaceful marine system? A dearth of small (tasty) crustaceans? A Longnose Hawkfish may be in the cards for you. Like all members of its family, the Longnose Hawk is not an out and about conspicuous tropical, but always an interesting conversation piece.
 

Some of my favorite pix of Oxycirrhites typus: First Line: At opposite ends of its distribution range. The first two in the upper Red Sea, the last in the Galapagos. Second Line: In S. Sulawesi,

   

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Fatherree, James. 2005. Hawkfishes; are they a good choice for your aquarium? TFH 1/05.

Fenner, Bob & Cindi Camp. 1990. The Hawkfishes, family Cirrhitidae. FAMA 4/90.

Michael, Scott W. 1998. Hawkfishes. Small, aggressive predators of the coral reef. AFM 8/98.

Randall, J.E. 1963. Review of the hawkfishes (family Cirrhitidae). Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus. 114:389-451

Randall, J.E. 1981. Longnose hawkfish, Oxycirrhites typus. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine 8/81

Takeshita, G.Y. 1975. Long-snouted hawkfish. Marine Aquarist 6(6):75

Tinker, S.W. 1978. Fishes of Hawaii. Hawaiian Service, Inc. HI


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