More colours: the underwater tunnel is decorated with a “garland” of bright fishes

More colours: the underwater tunnel is decorated with a “garland” of bright fishes

The large community inhabiting the underwater tunnel tank has seen the addition of more than fifty tropical fish relocated from the Science and Acclimation Building of the Primorsky Aquarium. The newcomers include foxface rabbitfish (Siganus vulpinus), sailfin snappers (Symphorichthys spilurus), yellowbanded sweetlips (Plectorhinchus lineatus) and yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens). These fish are very bright, and each of them has various shades of yellow in its colouration.

“All coral fishes are attractive but not all of them look harmonious in our Large Coral Reef exhibit; the factors contributing to it are artificial light and behavioural peculiarities of different species: some prefer to hide, and visitors cannot see them,” said Mikhail Streltsov, Head of the Tropical Marine Organisms Department. “We have introduced the fishes that can undoubtedly be shown to advantage in the tunnel tank. For instance, the reef has been home to a sailfin snapper for over a year; its behaviour – the fish always kept itself on the foreground, taking up certain positions in the large tank – told us that individuals of this species would look great in the tunnel, and we placed another ten specimens in it. Foxface rabbitfish are also well-suited to the exhibit: unlike other rabbitfish species that sometimes discolour, they do not change their colouration and always remain bright.”

Foxface rabbitfish, also known as foxface and black-face rabbitfish, are vibrant yellow fish with a contrasting black and white badger-like pattern on their head. Their fins bear spines equipped with poison glands, and the spines can cause very painful wounds. These fish are territorial: if they “call dibs on” some territory, they will defend it from both conspecifics and other species.

The sailfin snapper has false eyes near the tail, and its true eyes are disguised by vertical bars. It helps the fish to escape predators: when in danger, a sailfin snapper can swim away in an unexpected direction. 

Another newcomer – the yellow tang – is vivid lemon-yellow in colour. The species belongs to the surgeonfish family and possesses a rather powerful weapon - on both sides of its tail base there are spines resembling a surgeon’s scalpel in their form and sharpness. When the fish is relaxed, the spines lie flat against the body but if threatened, the fish points them outward.

 “The yellow tangs added to the tunnel tank have been living at the Aquarium for two years during which time we let them grow big enough to join the exhibit,” said Mikhail Streltsov. “The point is that many of tropical fishes are tiny babies when they arrive to us, and we cannot put them on display immediately.”

Yellowbanded sweetlips have a potential for further growth too – now they are about 20 cm long while adults can reach a length of 70 cm.  With age these fish also undergo colour change: as they mature, their distinct horizontal bands turn into a reticulated pattern.