Dottybacks

The 152 currently recognised species that form the Pseudochromidae family, or Dottybacks, are found in the tropical and subtropical Indo-Pacific. Most are darting, mini-predators of shallow coral reef habitats. The 25 genera that contain these species are divided into 4 subfamilies by some authorities, but for simplicity, I’ve just listed some of the most commonly encountered genera on this page.

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Congrogadus genus – located in the Congrogadinae subfamily (one of the four that consitute the larger Pseudochromidae family), this genus is just one 8 that form that subfamily. Commonly known as Eel-blennies, they are not really either of those kinds of fishes. Found in the Indo-Pacific region they inhabit coral reefs as well as sand and mud substrates from the intertidal zone down to 140m. They generally grow to a maximum of around 40cm and feed on crustaceans, although small fishes will also be taken in their large mouths. Only C. subducens is imported with any regularity.

Cypho genus – one of the 10 genera that form the Pseudochrominae subfamily, the Cypho genus contains just 2 species. They are found in the tropical western Pacific Ocean as far east as Tonga and favour shallow reef habitats such as slopes and channels. They usually occur singly or in pairs and only reach around 7cm in size. Although not especially common in the trade, they can make for interesting reef tank inhabitants on the understanding that they can be extremely fiesty, particularly when mature.

Labracinus genus – this small genus of 3 species is part of the Pseudochrominae subfamily. It is similar to Cypho but all 3 species can attain a moderate size of up to around 20cm. Coupled with a typical dottyback temperament, this makes them suitable only for specialised displays where their territorial and predatory instincts can be managed. L. cyclopthalmus is occasionally encountered in the trade but usually at a small size that belies it’s potential.

Manonichthys genus – as with the 2 genera above, this genus is also one of the Pseudochrominae subfamily. It contains 7 species all found in the tropical eastern Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean. The scientific name is a combination of Greek manon which is a kind of sponge, and ichthys for fish, referring to the sponge-dwelling behaviour of the species under this genus. Certain species mimic other reef fishes and they generally attain only a small size which makes them a reasonable candidate for a well-planned community reef tank.

Ogilbyina genus – this is another small genus of Pseudochrominae subfamily dottybacks, with 3 species. They remain smallish and exhibit the typical fiesty dottyback temperament. They are occassionally encountered in the ornamental trade. The genus name honours the zoologist James Douglas Ogilby (1853-1925) of the Queensland Museum.

Pholidochromis genus – this genus is one of the 10 that form the Pseudochrominae subfamily. There are only 2 species in this genus and both are from shallow water reef habitats in the western Pacific. P. cerasina was described only quite recently, in 2004, when it was caught accidentally. They are not commonly imported but make for a reasonable community reef fish if they are not housed with overtly passive species, the tank is quite large, and the potential for them attacking small crustaceans is noted.

Pictichromis genus – there are 8 species in this genus, which is one of the 10 that form the Pseudochrominae subfamily. The term picti translates to painted in recognition of their bright colours. While some species are very well-known to aquarists, having been a mainstay of the hobby for years, others are only occassionally seen. Even though these dazzling fishes typically only reach a size of several cm, they are known to be aggressive in captivity, particularly to smaller fishes, and those added to a tank that they have already claimed as their territory. They are sometimes confused with similar species of other genera (see species notes for more detail).

Pseudochromis genus – by far the largest genus in the Pseudochrominae subfamily, there are over 70 Pseudochromis species currently recognised. With widespread distribution across the tropical Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, despite their often gaudy colouration, these small fishes are frequently overlooked in their natural habitat due to their Houdini-like habits.

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Pseudoplesiops genus – this interesting genus is one of 5 that form the subfamily Pseudoplesiopinae. The 10 described species that make up the genus are distributed in the south Pacific and in the Indian Ocean as far west as the Maldive Islands. They are highly secretive and rarely encountered in the trade.

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