Doug's Hawkfish FAQ
by Doug Wojtczak

Hawkfish FAQ by Doug Wojtczak
Flame Hawkfish - Neocirrhitus armatus

Being a moderator at Reef Central I often see many questions about Hawkfish and because of this I wanted to put togther as much information as possible and share my experiences with these wonderful fish. I hope to answer many of the common questions about these fish and also give everyone a little more insight in to their care and compatibility with other fish and animals.

I must say that I am not and fish expert, far from it actually, but I have kept a few different types of Hawkfish over the last few years and have some hands on experience with them. They have been my favorite since I first saw a Flame Hawkfish over three years ago and I still have that same Hawkfish in my 75 gallon tank today. At this point in time I have six Hawkfish (five different types) in four of my current tanks.

Before we get into the care and keeping of these fish lets start out with some background and general information about Hawkfish.

Hawkfish come from the Family Cirrhitidae. Most Hawkfish are small, at least the ones that we are interested in for our reef tanks, witch can often be found perching on SPS corals heads, gorgonians, rocks or even soft corals.

The name Hawkfish is very fitting because of the way that they perch on top of corals or rock which makes them look much like a hawk. The way that they move is also similar to hawks because once they see food swimming or floating past they swoop down just like a hawk would. The can sit almost motionless on their perch and survey the situation by moving only their eyes.

Most Hawkfish come from the Indo-Pacific with the exception of a few that come from the Atlantic. These fish are hermaphrodites and the larger one will change from a female to a male in the ocean when living in groups.

In the aquarium they seem to be extremely hardy and take to different types of flake and frozen foods quickly after introduction in to the tank. They do best with rockwork arrangements that provide many perches and hiding places which make them feel at home.

While they have very strong pectoral fins they are not good swimmers, becasue they do not have a swim bladder, and seem to push themselves through the water instead of swimming. This should be taken into consideration when keeping them with much larger fast swimming fish that could see them as a potential meal. One very interesting thing about them is that when they are perched on top of rockwork they will use those strong pectoral fins to walk across the rock instead of swimming.

Caution:
One important thing to remember is that Hawkfish are predators and some can prey upon small fish and inverts such as shrimp, snails and crabs. While I have never had a problem with my Hawkfish bothering any of my inverts there is always a possibility that it can happen. Take this into consideration when adding any Hawkfish to your tank and have an alternate plan of action ready if you have to remove it because it is attacking small fish or inverts. While this bit of information would scare many people away from keeping Hawkfish there are many who have not had problems.

 

Flame Hawkfish - Neocirrhitus armatus (Pictured at the top of the page)

They normally inhabit West Pacific areas from Japan to Australia.

They normally grow to about three to three and a half inches.

They will readily accept most types of live foods, frozen foods and marine flake foods. They will also sometimes eat small crustaceans and worms that come along with live rock or inhabit live sand.

The coloration of these fish are brilliant bright red with a black stripe that travels along the top fin. Most that I have seen also have what look like black eyebrows over their eyes and I have even seen one with what looked like a mustache above his mouth.

They are normally peaceful with most other fish as long as they are not much smaller than them but like all Hawkfish can be predators and eat inverts or small fish.

Doug's Notes:
The only fish that I have ever saw my Flame Hawkfish bother was a Six Line wrasse that I added to my 90 gallon tank. For some odd reason the Hawkfish did not like the Six Line wrasse and constantly chased him into the rockwork. The Six Line was sick when I bought it and it ended up in my sump after it jumped in to the overflow and I am not certain if things would have settled down had the Six Line been around longer.

One of the more interesting things about the Flame Hawkfish that I have seen is their ability to perch in a fully vertical head down position between rocks or even in the corner between two panes of glass. Also, they have the ability to walk across rocks or substrate because of their strong pectoral fins. They do have wonderful personalities and will sit perfectly still and follow your every movement with their eyes.

In my 90 gallon tank I have a Flame Hawkfish and a LongNose Hawkfish which get along very well. I have never noticed either of them looking at each other or showing any aggressiveness towards each other.

 

Arc-Eyed Hawkfish- Paracirrhites Arcatus (Picture coming soon)

They normally inhabit Indo-Pacific areas from Hawaii to East Africa, Japan and New Caledonia.

They can normally grow up to about six inches in length.

They will readily accept most types of live foods, frozen foods and marine flake foods. They will also sometimes eat small crustaceans and worms that come along with live rock or inhabit live sand.

The more common coloration of these fish are brownish to a dark pinkish color with a white stripe that starts at the center of the body and goes back to the tailfin. There a some other color variations such as green but I have never seen one in person.

They seem to be very peaceful and shy. They also seem to be more timid than most other Hawkfish and spend more time hiding in the rock work than out in the open areas. I have not really noticed the Arc-Eye Hawkfish perch in the vertical positions that some of the other Hawkfish do and notice that they almost take a sitting, belly down, position when on top of rocks or corals. While I have read that the Arc-Eye can be very aggressive I have not seen that in the two that I have kept.

Use caution when keeping this fish in your tank because even though mine has been the perfect tankmate that does not mean that others will be so friendly and peaceful.

Doug's Notes:
The Arc-Eyed Hawkfish that I have seems to be less active and more shy than the other Hawkfish that I keep. While it doesn't seem to fit his personality he is a very aggressive eater and will be the first in line when feeding time comes around. While their colors are not as striking as the other Hawkfish their menacing look and rounded arch pattern behind their eyes make them a good looking fish.


LongNose Hawkfish- Oxycirrhites typus

LongNose Hawkfish- Oxycirrhites typus

They normally inhabit Indo-Pacific areas from the Red Sea to Panama, Hawaii, Japan and New Caledonia.

They normally grow to about four inches.

They will readily accept most types of live foods, frozen foods and marine flake foods. They will also sometimes eat small crustaceans and worms that come along with live rock or inhabit live sand. The small, narrow looking mouth on these fish can be deceiving and you will notice that it can open very wide and to eat food much larger than it appears to accept. I have heard stories of other hobbyists having problems with the LongNose Hawkfish eating shrimp and other inverts so use caution when selecting this fish.

The coloration on this fish is very interesting and looks like a crossed stripe pattern. Their body is normally white, light gray or light brown with the red crossed stripe pattern. The thing that I have noticed most about this fish is that it has bright blue eyes which makes it a very attractive fish.

This seems to be the most peaceful of all of the Hawkfish that I keep. Like the ArcEyed Hawkfish this one seems to spend more time hiding in or behind the rock work than out in the open areas. While they do perch on rocks and corals like the Flame Hawkfish it is not out anywhere near as much.

Doug's Notes:
The LongNosed Hawkfish is a very interesting fish with the neat body shape and crosshatch color pattern. It does also seem to be somewhat shy and reclusive but is a welcome addition in my 90g reef tank. He shares the 90 gallon with my Flame Hawkfish which he gets along very well with. I have never noticed either of them looking at each other or showing any aggressiveness towards each other.

 

Spotted Hawkfish - Cirrhitichthys aprinus (Picture coming soon)

They normally inhabit West-Pacific areas, the Philippines and Indonesia.

They can grow five or more inches. This is the largest Hawkfish that I keep.

They will readily accept most types of live foods, frozen foods and marine flake foods. They will also sometimes eat small crustaceans and worms that come along with live rock or inhabit live sand. This Hawkfish will eat anything that I put into the tank and can easily compete for food along with my two triggers, an aggressive Maroon Clown and a very fast Lunar Wrasse.

This coloration of this fish varies but the most common trait is the spots and thick crossbars. My Hawkfish is white with brown bars and spots all over his body.

This fish is the most aggressive of all of the Hawkfish that I keep. While I have never seen him bother any of my other fish he will not back down or swim away when one of my more aggressive fish bothers him.

Doug's Notes:
While the color of my particular Spotted Hawkfish is not the nicest he does have a good personality and is really a big fish as far as Hawkfish go. Whenever I clean the tank he will come right up to the front glass and watch everything that I am doing. He is very active and out in the open at almost all times and can always be seen swimming in and out of the rocks and perching on top of the rockwork.

This fish is best suited for a tank that has larger semi-aggressive fish.

 

Red-Spotted Hawkfish - Amblycirrhites pinos (Picture coming soon)

They are one of the few fish in this familiy that comes from the Atlantic.

They can grow five or more inches. This is the largest Hawkfish that I keep.

They will readily accept most types of live foods, frozen foods and marine flake foods.

This coloration of this fish is white with brown bands, green eyes and orange or redish spots over its face and dorsal fin.

This fish is very peaceful and shy. It is not in the open very often, unless it is feeding time, but it does spend most of its time near the bottom of the tank or in the lower areas of rock work.

Doug's Notes:
I bought this fish because of the different coloration and interesting looks. It has been with me for over two years and lives in my 75 gallon tank along with a Flame Hawkfish. There has not been any problems between them.

 

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