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Related FAQs: The Basses called Creolefishes,

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/The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

The Basses Called Creolefishes, Paranthias

Bob Fenner  Paranthias colonus, the Pacific Creolefish 

Amongst the bass family, the Creoles are not the most brilliantly marked or colored; however they do share their larger brethren's penchant for interesting observable behavior. Appreciatively, Creolefishes are smaller bodied and mouthed, and much less aggressive. These species are more and more offered in the trade; and at reasonable prices.

Classification: Taxonomy, Relation With Other Groups

Members of the great true bass & grouper family, Serranidae. Some salient characteristics of the group: Opercle (gill cover) with three spines; one main spine with a lesser spine above and below. Lateral line complete and continuous. Pelvic fin with one stout spine and five soft rays. Three anal fin spines. Seven branchiostegal rays (the cartilaginous gill supports). Usually 24 or 25 vertebrae. This is the kind of information used in taxonomy in classifying and identifying organisms as species, genera...

The nitty-gritty of Paranthias taxonomy can be thoroughly checked out in Smith's thesis cited below. The genus was formulate first by Guichenot in 1868 through the at time monotypic species which is now the Atlantic Creolefish, Paranthias furcifer. A sampling of the genus's diagnoses: small groupers with the body robust, moderately compressed; dorsal and ventral profiles nearly equally curved. Dorsal IX (i.e. eleven hard rays), 18 or 19 (referring to number of soft rays); anal III, 9 or 10 (guess what the numbers refer to). Gill rakers (cartilaginous projections on the first gill support) 35 to 40. Head short, 26 to 30 percent of standard length. Caudal fin deeply forked (check it out). Scales small, ctenoid (with small interlocking "teeth"). Pyloric caecae (out-pocketings of the "stomach") 12,... and many more relative measures of various bony and other structural elements.

Included species: confined to "American" waters. Some writers have recognized as many as three species, others just one. My personal evaluation is that there are two. On the Atlantic side, Florida to at least Brazil, the aforementioned Paranthias furcifer aka the Atlantic Creolefish; and on the other side of the Mexico/Central America isthmus our fabulously illustrated Pacific Creole, Paranthias colonus. Baja south to Chile.

Paranthias colonus (Valenciennes 1846), the Pacific Creolefish. Mexico's California to Peru. To fourteen inches in length. Occasionally sold in the aquarium trade under its own name... Here are individuals shown during the day and resting disguised on the bottom at night. Below, individuals of the species in the Galapagos. An intermediate individual of four inches (young ones are all yellow), and a mottled and commonly colored one. This is the most common bass species by far in the Galapagos.

Paranthias furcifer (Valenciennes 1828), the Creolefish. Eastern and western coasts of the Atlantic. To fourteen inches in length. Zooplankton feeder much as its namesake group (Anthiines). This one in Tobago, in the lower Antilles.

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Nomenclature: Come on this is fun! The name Paranthias is derived from the Greek para (= "near") and the oh-so familiar bass genus and namesake of it's own sub-family, Anthias.

Relationships: As you might guess from the above, Creolefishes have been placed with the Anthias. They are more properly belong with the groupers (sub-family Epinephilinae) on the basis of skull structure, because Paranthias furcifer's ability to hybridize with a fellow epinephiline Cephalopholis fulva, and more.

Natural Range

Marine; tropical to semi-tropical. Twenty to two hundred feet. Found mainly in rocky and reef areas.


Whole family to about 3 meters and 400 kilograms. Creoles to about a foot, and a half kilo.

Selection: General to Specific

Look for a recent arrival with good color and active, inquisitive behavior. Make sure the specimen is feeding before buying, or putting down a deposit and when you come to pick it up.

Environmental: Conditions


Some rocky or coral skeleton cave dwelling and reduced lighting.


Not too particular. Good clean water of modified specific gravity (< 1.022) of more or less constant temperature is fine. They appreciate a lot of water motion.


Better to introduce after more shy tankmates have become semi-established. Offer some live foods day after introduction. Leave lights off for a day and night.

Predator/Prey Relations

Not as predatory/stalking/attacking directed as their close relatives, but still tend to stalk and attempt to swallow most anything meaty.

Reproduction, Sexual Differentiation:

Hermaphrodites, usually non-synchronous; which is to say in science-ese individuals are both functional sexes, but not at the same time.


Not generally territorial, okay to keep by themselves. Compatible with other basses of not-too similar a size.

In the wild you find them head into the current, looking forward, down and around for food items, sculling slowly. When perceiving danger or prey, capable of rapid bursts of straight speed. Collectors catch them with two nets and careful, slow removal of cover.

Feeding/Foods/Nutrition: Types, Frequency, Amount, Wastes

Though Paranthias are not very aggressive as some other serranids, they are still as predaceous, and will swallow any tankmate smaller than their mouth-opening. They will eagerly eat any dried, frozen, prepared or live foods offered.

Disease: Infectious, Parasitic, Nutritional, Genetic, Social

The genus Paranthias have proven to be relatively free from and not susceptible to the typical scourges of captive marines. A note re more "pests" than parasites: on arrival or purchase, examine specimens carefully for isopods (like their terrestrial cousins, rolly-pollies or pill-bugs) that commonly attach to fin bases and inside the mouth. These can cause considerable damage on an already over-stressed animal. These are gray and usually quite large. They can and should be removed with forceps.

Not unusually sensitive to copper treatments.


The Creolefishes appear dainty and taste good in Cajun dishes, hence their common name. They are not the most beautiful marine fishes, most definitely not gorgeous as far as many basses go. However, neither are they high-priced gulpers and bullyers of all they encounter, or "look-at-me-and-I'll-die" Anthias types.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Fenner, Robert. 1995. Creolefishes, Paranthias. FAMA 8/95.

Nelson, Joseph S. Fishes of the World. Wiley. 2nd Ed. 1984.

Smith, Clarence Lavett. 1959. A Revision of the American Groupers (Epinephelus and Allied Genera). PhD Dissertation, Univ. of Michigan.

Williams, L.B.; Williams, E.H. Jr. 1981. Nine new species of Anilocra (Crustacea: Isopoda: Cymothoidae) external parasites of West Indian coral reef fishes. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash.; vol. 94, pp. 1005-1047.

Zamora, Divina V. 1987. Grouper abstracts / compiled by Ma. Divina V. Zamora, William P. Gabuelo, Amelia T. Arisola.

Iliolo, Philippines: Brackish water Aquaculture Information System, SEAFDEC Aquaculture Dept. Some bass citations now!

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