Species

Published on November 16th, 2012 | by John Clipperton

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Scooter Blenny – Synchiropus stellatus

COMMON NAMES: Pink/Red/ Starry Dragonet/ Scooter Blenny
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Synchiropus stellatus
ORDER: Perciformes
FAMILY: Callionymidae
GENUS: Synchiropus
RANGE: Indian Ocean, from the eastern coast of Africa to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT: A denizen of relatively shallow water, the Starry Dragonet inhabits protected coastal reefs in areas with rubble or algalcovered rocks. In this setting, it relies on its camouflage and cryptic habits for protection and cautiously moves around over the substrate, preying on a range of small benthic organisms. Foraging activity continues throughout daylight hours, then during the evenings pairs may engage in a complex mating ritual, which culminates in the release of eggs into the water column. Although sexing can be problematic, males can be distinguished by their extended dorsal spine and dorsal fin spot (females exhibit a white dorsal fin edged with black). Using this fin for displays in territorial displays, the male attempts to drive away competitors, and a tussle may result if the intruder does not back down. Synchiropus ocellatus is a similar species which is often mistaken for S. stellatus, but generally, S.ocellatus has overall brown and white mottling.

CAPTIVE CARE: As with other species from this genus, the Starry Dragonet relies on the presence of a healthy and stable population of tiny invertebrates, primarily copepods, to meet its nutritional needs over the long term. A large mature and stable tank is recommended for this reason. These fish cannot compete against the vast majority of other fish species for food in captivity. In a small species tank it may be possible to wean them onto small meaty foods, but this needs to be delivered onto the substrate for them to feed effectively (a dip tube can be used for this, but pumps may need to be deactivated to prevent the food from being lifted into the water column). Even if they are weaned onto such foods, it is wise to foster a healthy pod population because there may be times when the aquarist cannot guarantee the provision of artificial foods. If this occurs for an extended period, the fish is likely to lose weight, or even starve in a poorly designed system. The addition of a refugium (particularly an over-tank design) can prove to be beneficial for the promotion of large numbers of pods, and nowadays it is even possible to buy copepods to feed directly or replenish natural populations. Frequently available in the trade and not expensive, this species is seen as slightly more desirable than S. ocellatus, which it is often confused with. Colour variations do occur in both species and this makes identification problematic.

Written By John Clipperton.

This article was printed in Marine Habitat magazine, Issue 12 (Nov/Dec 2012)

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About the Author

An award-winning photographer and lifelong aquarist, John has worked for numerous marine retailers, publishers and manufacturers on a freelance basis. He has also collaborated on a range of projects with senior aquarium experts, and supported organisations such as zoos, public aquaria, conservation initiatives and educational establishments.



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