With the holiday season almost upon us, the lights are up, the tree is decorated and your mind is probably anywhere but on the aquatic world. However, the Christmas spirit hasn’t been lost on the marine world either, as there are a number of appropriately festive named species that dwell beneath the waves, many of which are suitable for the home aquarium:
Christmas Wrasse (Halichoeres claudia)
Photo Credit: Neptune-Fish.
The Christmas wrasse, also known as the red-lined wrasse, is a member of the Labridae family and is widespread across much of the West Indian and Central Pacific oceans. Reaching a maximum size of approximately 12cms, the Christmas wrasse predominantly spends its time over shallow and exposed reef flats from the surface down to around 20m. They are generally peaceful in nature and will happily exist on their own or with other peaceful species, including their own, in tanks of around 180l or more. The Christmas wrasse is also a very effective at cleaning up pest fire worms and pyramidellid snails, but does have the tendency to pick at feather duster worms and smaller shrimp species as well. In a home aquarium, they will happily accept most frozen foods such as enriched brine shrimp or Mysis, as well as marine flake and pellet food.
Christmas Tree Coral (Sphaerella spp)
Photo Credit: Live Aquaria
The Christmas tree coral referred to in this instance is also known as the medusa coral and not to be confused with a deep-sea black coral of the same name, and is found across the Indo-Pacific region. This peaceful bottom-dwelling coral can attain sizes of up to 17cms and range in colour from black through to light tan. Unlike photosynthetic species, the Christmas tree coral lacks the symbiotic zooxanthellae algae that would provide it with glucose as a source of food. As a result, they are not dependent on light and can thrive under low levels as long as their feeding requirements are met. Christmas tree corals require direct target feeding with small foods such as juvenile brine shrimp, micro-plankton and filter feeding invertebrate food, as well as the addition of iodine and strontium in order to survive within an enclosed reef environment.
Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)
Photo Credit: Rokus Groeneveld.
The Christmas tree worm is a species of calcareous, tube-building polychaete worm and a member of the Serpulidae family that occurs throughout the world’s tropical oceans. They reach a maximum size of 1inch and are normally found attached to live rock within the aquaria trade. Christmas tree worms get their name from the crown shaped mouth appendages on their anterior end segment, which are coated in cilia covered radioles. The cilia are used during filter feeding to capture prey and for respiration. In a home aquarium environment, Christmas tree worms tend to prefer low levels of flow and would benefit from placement in a sheltered overhang and being target fed with a liquid phytoplankton.
Candy Cane Coral (Caulastrea furcata)
Photo Credit: FishLore.
The candy cane coral is a large polyp stony coral (LPS) found across the tropical reefs in the Indo-Pacific and is often also be referred to as a trumpet coral. It consists of a number of rounded polyps, which vary in colour from green through to a blue/brown, with short sweeper tentacles that help transport food directly into its mouth. Candy cane corals are photosynthetic and engage in a symbiotic relationship with the zooxanthellae algae contained within the coral tissues. These zooxanthellae provide the candy cane coral with nutrients through photosynthesis, while the coral provides the zooxanthellae with a safe and stable home environment.
Snowflake Moray Eel (Echidna nebulosa)
Photo Credit: Florent Charpin.
The Snowflake moray eel is a nocturnal predator that dwells within crevices and caves across the Indo-Pacific reefs. In the wild, they have been known to reach almost a metre in length but most captive specimens rarely exceed half that. Despite being armed with a mouthful of razor sharp teeth, they are generally considered to be reef safe, although they will pick off crustaceans and fish small enough to fit in their mouths. In an aquarium environment, they will accept most frozen commercial foods as well as shrimp and fish. Like most species of eel, they are escape artists and can fit through surprisingly small openings in aquarium lids. Therefore a tight fitting lid on a tank of at least 200l should be provided, ideally with strong filtration and a large protein skimmer to cope with the vast amounts of food waste they produce.
Exquisite Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus exquisitus)
Photo Credit: Pisces Kazu.
The exquisite fairy wrasse is a colourful species of wrasse hailing from Africa, all the way through the Indian and Pacific oceans. The males tend to be much brighter, with their exact colouring dependent on variables such as origin and maturity. They can also change their colour to match their mood. Like other species of fairy or flasher wrasse, the exquisite fairy wrasse tends to take a few days to acclimatise to their surroundings, often remaining hidden in caves and crevices at first. They are suitable for tanks of around 200l or larger with a secure lid, along with a sand bed and ample live rock, which will provide hiding spaces and smaller organisms for food. This being said, fairy wrasses are considered reef safe and pose no threat to corals or larger reef invertebrates and will readily accept frozen foods or marine flake.
Zebra Turkeyfish (Dendrochirus zebra)
Photo Credit: ReefLifeSurvey.
The Zebra turkeyfish is also referred to as the zebra lionfish in the aquaria trade, and tends to dwell over rocky and coral reef flats, from the surface shallows down to around 80m. Like most lionfish species, they originate from the tropical Red sea and Indo/Western Pacific oceans, but have recently been found across the American Atlantic and down into the Caribbean. This Atlantic population is likely to have initiated from the release from private aquariums and is detrimental to the health of native reef species, as they have no natural predators in this area. Within a home aquarium, they require a tank with a minimum size of 120l, ideally more, and plenty of rockwork to provide hiding and resting spots. In the wild, zebra lionfish will prey on a variety of small invertebrates and fish, using their wide spread pectoral fins to shepherd its victims into a corner, before swallowing them by creating a vacuum using their jaws muscles. Zebra lionfish also have 13 sharp venomous spines along their dorsal fin, as well as further spines on their pelvic and ventral fins, so need to be handled with extreme caution.
Tinsel Squirrelfish (Sargocentron suborbitale)
Photo Credit: G.R. Allen.
The Tinsel squirrelfish is a larger member of the Holocentridae family, with a home range from Gulf of California through to Ecuador. Like most squirrelfish species, they are fairly shy in nature, preferring to hide in caves and under overhangs in the day, before venturing out at night to hunt. This isn’t to say they are not suitable for a home aquarium, as long as a large tank with suitable rockwork and a strong flow are provided. They are hardy and non territorial, and can co-habit peacefully with a variety of other marine species, including their own kind. It is important to note however, that squirrelfish cannot be considered reef safe, as while they pose no threats to corals and other fish, they will pick off smaller invertebrates. They should be fed a range of meaty and frozen foods, as well as shrimp, after the lights have been switched off. Tinsel squirrelfish are capable of producing audible noises by grinding their pharyngeal teeth situated in their throat, and stretching their muscles against their elongated swim bladders. Aquarists should also be wary that squirrelfish have spines on their dorsal, pelvic and anal fins as well as spiny scales, so care should be taken when handling and net them to avoid injury to either human or fish.
Like any new aquarium purchases, prior research should be conducted to ensure compatibility with your set-up and to identify the necessary requirements to safe-guard their health and well-being. Provided the required environmental parameters are met and maintained, it just leaves you to sit back and enjoy.