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Related FAQs: Marine Life of the Tropical West Atlantic, Tropical West Atlantic 2

Related Articles: TWA Invertebrates, Algae, Vascular Plants, Introduction to Fishwatcher's Guide Series Pieces/Sections, Lachnolaimus maxiumus/Hogfish, Hogfishes of the Genus Bodianus

The Tropical West Atlantic: Bahamas to Brazil, Part 2

To: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11,


Bob Fenner  

Groupers & Basses- Family Serranidae. There are many "reef" basses occupying various niches of the TWA. For the purpose of clarity, and because they are separately identified as such, we'll list these by their four top genera/common name groupings.

"True" basses of the area comprise several species; most get too big and carnivorous for home use, but two of the three most commonly offered make outstanding aquarium fare. The Graysby, Cephalopholis cruentata (1) is an almost dog equivalent as pet fishes go, training to "do tricks" and coming to quickly identify with its owners. The Coney, C. fulva (1), is a fish of many colors, coming in golds, browns, reds and bicolor phases'¦ always with a sprinkling of blue dots. It grows to about half the length (10") of the larger Graysby. The Creole-fish, Paranthias furcifer (2) is not readily recognized as a bass at all. This fish lives more in the open waters, more like the related, smaller Anthias species.

Genus Cephalopholis:

Cephalopholis cruentata Lacepede 1802, the Graysby. Tropical west Atlantic. To fourteen inches maximum length. A regular offering in the aquarium trade, though not a great beauty. Capable of rapid color, marking changes. This one in the Bahamas. For comparison, though it is very rarely offered in the trade, the Panamic Graysby, Cephalophlois panamensis (Steindachner 1877), is shown.

Cephalopholis fulva (Linnaeus 1758), the Coney. Tropical west Atlantic. To sixteen inches long in the wild, usually less than half that in captivity. A hardy aquarium species that comes in three distinct color variations: Overall red or red above, white below; Brown or Brown above, white below, and Overall Yellow (xanthic), and changes between these variations. Three of these color morphs all pictured below:

Genus Epinephelus:

Epinephelus adscensionis (Osbeck 1765), the Rock Hind. West Atlantic. To about twenty four inches in length in the wild. Shy, but occasionally collected for the aquarium interest. This one in the Bahamas.

Epinephelus striatus (Bloch 1792), the Nassau Grouper. Tropical west Atlantic. To more than three feet in the wild. A noble game and pet-fish for large systems. This one foot juvenile in the Bahamas.

Genus Mycteroperca:

Mycteroperca bonaci Poey 1860, the Black Grouper. Tropical west Atlantic into the Gulf of Mexico. To more than four feet in length. An occasional "accidental" offering out of the TWA. Adult images from the Bahamas below.
Mycteroperca interstitialis (Poey 1860), the Yellowmouth Grouper. Yet another misplaced bass in the trade. Infrequently collected in the tropical west Atlantic as attractive juveniles, they grow to more than thirty inches in length. Six and twelve inch individuals in the Bahamas shown.

Mycteroperca phenax Jordan & Swain 1884, the Scamp. West Atlantic. To about a meter in length. One foot specimen off of Cozumel. 

Mycteroperca tigris (Valenciennes 1833), the Tiger Grouper. Tropical west Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. To more than three feet in length. This handsome species is entirely piscivorous. Bahamas and Bonaire pix.

Genus Paranthias:

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.

Subfamily Grammistinae (or Family Grammistidae, Soapfishes), Genus Rypticus:

Rypticus saponaceus Gill 1861, the Blackgill Soapfish. Eastern Pacific; Sea of Cortez to Northern Peru, Galapagos. To thirteen inches in length. Somber, but of an interesting shape. Occasionally imported into pet-fish markets. In Cozumel, Mexico and Bonaire. There are eight species in this genus.

The Dwarf Seabasses of the genus Serranus (1) are a delight to all types of marine aquarium keepers. Most get no more than a few inches, they're tough and don't hassle most types of tankmates. Four of seven members of the genus regularly make it into the industry. Most popular are the Lantern Bass, S. baldwini (1) and Harlequin Bass, S. tigrinus (1), with its dark tiger-like barring. About equal in running-up are the Chalk Bass, S. tortugarum (1), and Tobaccofish, S. tabacarius (1). The remaining three species are likewise attractive and hardy, just not frequently available.

Ecotype: Shallows of mixed rubble, sand and reef, near the bottom.

Serranus annularis (Gunther 1880), the Orangeback Bass. Rocky reef areas in the tropical west Atlantic. To three and a half inches in length. Generally occurs in pairs in the wild. Aquarium image.

Serranus baldwini (Evermann & Marsh 1899), the Lantern Bass. Tropical West Atlantic. To three inches in length. Aquarium photos at right, Cancun and Cozumel below.

Serranus tabacarius (Cuvier 1829), the Tobaccofish. A common offering in the pet fish interest. Also from the tropical west Atlantic. To some eight inches in length. Aquarium and Cozumel pix.

Serranus tigrinus (Bloch 1790), the Harlequin Bass. Common in the wild (tropical west Atlantic) and in the aquarium trade. Grows to almost a foot in length in the wild. A juvenile off Cozumel and adult in St. Lucia.

Serranus tortugarum Longley 1935, the Chalk Bass. Tropical west Atlantic. To three inches in length. Aquarium, Cozumel and Cancun images.

Reef Basslets, genus Liopropoma, are likewise beautiful, moderately tough aquarium choices for peaceful settings. All four species found in the TWA are striking in appearance, though only two occur in pet-fish markets regularly. The Peppermint (aka Swissguard) Basslet, L. rubre (2) is most often found, with the equally beautiful Candy Basslet, L. carnabi (2) a distant second. The other two Liopropoma, the Cave Basslet (L. mowbrayi) (2) and Wrasse Basslet (L. eukrines) (2) aren't collected for aquarium use. Unfortunately they are deeper water (80-200+ feet) species.

Ecotype: Caves and ledges of vertical reefs. These are very secretive fishes.

Liopropoma rubre Poey 1861, the Peppermint Bass. Tropical west Atlantic. To three and a half inches in length. A small, shy beauty that adapts well to peaceful surroundings that include dark caves to hide and sleep in. Aquarium image.

Hamlets, genus Hypoplectrus. Whether you believe that all the color variants of this genus represent but one widely diverging species or ten, eleven separate ones, the Hamlets make up the third group of semi-hardy aquarium-friendly small basses of the TWA. Most often offered is the Barred Hamlet, H. puella (2), but it is not the greatest beauty of the group. The iridescent Blue Hamlet, H. gemma (2), must really be seen in its full glory in the wild to be appreciated. Other members at times available are the Indigo (H. indigo) (2), Yellowtail (H. chlorurus) (2), and the spectacularly gorgeous Golden Hamlet, H. gummigutta (2).

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 St. Lucia.

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.

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

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.

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.

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., the Tan Hamlet. Golden brown overall color except for a bluish streak on the fore part of the pectoral fins. St. Thomas. 

To: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11,

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