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Related FAQs: The Sunburst/Fathead Anthias, Fancy Basses, Subfamily Anthiinae

Related Articles: The Bass family, Anthias/Anthiines

/The Conscientious Reef Aquarist

A Different Fancy Sea Bass (subfamily Anthiinae), The Hawkfish, Sunburst or Fathead Anthias, Serranocirrhitus latus 

Bob Fenner

  Aquarium image

    With a genus name of Serranocirrhitus (bass hawkfish) you might imagine this little Fancy Sea Bass would be different than other Anthiines... most of the popular aquarium species (the subfamily has 170...) are noted open water schooling types... and you'd be right. The Fathead or Sunburst Anthias lives either solitarily or in a small haremic group, mainly under overhangs or in caves. Another plus relative to its close relations is this species aquarium hardiness. Given some easy provisions, this can be a gorgeous addition to most any peaceful reef system. 

    The placement of this species with the Hawkfishes centered on its morphology (structure), very much more like the cirrhitids than Anthiines externally, with a high and deep head and long pectoral fins. The species observed behavior would have likewise not placed it with the Fancy Basses... more sedentary, non-schooling. 


    Western Pacific; southern Japan, Taiwan, south to New Caledonia, the Great Barrier Reef/Australia, over to Fiji and Micronesia (Palau). Typically in fifty plus foot depths near coral reefs under rocks, in caves. 


    Males to about five inches overall, females to three in the wild. More like half these dimensions in captivity.

Serranocirrhitus latus Watanabe 1949, the Fathead or Hawkfish Anthias. Deep bodied, and to about five inches in the wild. Shy, though hardy for the subfamily. Resides in caves by day. Need hiding spaces in captivity and peaceful tankmates. Image taken in Bunaken, Indonesia. 

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


    This little fish (typically shipped at an inch to an inch and a half) ships very well. Unless there is trouble with delayed shipment, misplacement, very bad weather, this is a "zero DOA" species typically. Do wait on "new arrivals" a few days to let them rest, assure that they're eating. Your dealer will very likely hold onto your selections with a down-payment. 



    For such small fish, should still be sizeable to accommodate plenty of cover, caves for their selection, especially should you be getting more than one male. A hundred gallons is about right, with lots of live rock, and preferably subdued lighting, or at least a shadier region out of the typical "noon sun in the tropics" conditions most hobbyists supply. Remember, Serranocirrhitus are collected in scuba depth waters, in cave-like settings. 

Water Quality:

    Needs to be high and consistent. Live rock, macro-algae and if you can an accessory sump/refugium with ongoing crustacean co-culture will keep your zooplanktivorous livestock in good health and activity.



    Males of this species will definitely go after each other... particularly in competition for females to add/keep to their harem. Unless you have a hundred gallons plus, I would stick with just one male. Females (especially in the presence of males) are more pink, lighter orange overall, and definitely smaller, less "steep-headed". Below are example images of a female (left) and male in captivity.


    A note re what may be a shock. These fish can/do swim at all angles, very often upside down. If you peak into their cave and see them oriented in all directions to the surface, don't let this throw you. 


    The Fatheads eating habits have been mentioned. They consume crustaceans, worms, larval fishes by "wait and attack" methods. A refugium, live rock,  that will supply "surprise" feedings is of distinct advantage in their nutritional upkeep. Barring this, frequent small feedings of small or finely divided meaty food items (a few times per day) will keep your Sunburst Anthias full and alert.

Diseases, Prevention/Treatment

    Like most Anthiines, Serranocirrhitus latus are either healthy or surely gone to all the way gone by the time you "catch" them succumbing to the usual reef fish diseases. Do use a small flashlight to examine yours daily. Infectious and parasitic disease are of course best warded off by prevention: good maintenance procedures, regular testing, and nutritional "boosting" with a vitamin and iodide solution added to their food and water about once a week. 

    As you might assume, for such small fishes, this species is sensitive to copper and harsh dye/medicine concentrations. Take care to keep levels of these at "just therapeutic" should you find yourself using them with this fish.


    At first classified and placed in the family of Hawkfishes (family Cirrhitidae), upon observing this species in the wild, it's easy to understand how this taxonomic misplacement occurred. The Fathead/Sunburst Anthias doesn't flit about over an extensive territory like the bulk of other Fancy Basses, but pretty much stays put, waiting for meals to happen by, darting out much the same as the Hawks to secure food. 

    Due to their scarcity in the wild, and difficulty in capture, this little Anthiine continues to demand a high price, but is worth it in my and apparently others estimation. Have a small cave space, peaceful tankmates in a well-established reef system? Serranocirrhitus latus may be in your future. 

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Burgess, Warren E. Salts from the seven seas. A general piece on the "butterfly perches". TFH June 1974.

Fenner, Robert. 1995. The fancy sea basses; subfamily Anthiinae. FAMA 6/95.

Fenner Bob. 1995. The family Serranidae. FAMA 9/95.

Michael, Scott W. 1991. The Fathead Anthias (Serranocirrhitus latus) Watanabe. FAMA 10/91.

Michael, Scott W. 1991. The Anthias: Jewels of the Reef. AFM 12/91.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. Fishes of the World. 3d Ed. Wiley. 600pp.

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