Yellowhead Jawfish

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Aug 10, 2005
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Miami, FL
Common name(s): Yellowhead jawfish, pearly jawfish

Scientific name: Opistognathus aurifrons

Family: Opistognathidae

Origin: Tropical West-Atlantic, Caribbean

Maximum Size: Up to 4"

Minimum tank size: 30g, they need about 2.5 square feet of tank footprint per fish, unless you have a mated pair.

Lifespan: up to five years or more

Care: This curious fish is a burrow builder and is best kept in an environment that caters to its needs. It requires a deep sand bed of at least 3". The main rock work of the tank must be set against the glass and not laid on top of the sand as the fish can be killed by falling rock as it digs its burrow. The substrate should be fine enough to not damage its body when digging, but should also include rubble rock & sea shells to support the burrow. In the wild, the jawfish is found in colonies when numbers of them can be seen hovering directly over their burrows. In the aquarium, such a colony isn't feasible and typically one is kept. However, if one has the space, a group can be kept together if added at the same time, or a mater pair can be kept (I have a mated pair). Again, minimum tank size is 30g, though some literature say 20g. This fish is an accomplished jumper. In fact, most jawfish are lost in the first day of captivity because of jumping rather than water quality issues, so have a tight lid when keeping this species. Avoid keeping this fish with pugnacious species or predatory species that are larger. It's best kept with docile species that don't share it's burrowing habits. It will chase away crustaceans and small fish that come too close to it's burrow, but it won't harm them.

Feeding: The Yellowhead jawfish is a carnivore that in the wild feeds on detrius and plankton. In the home aquarium, it feeds on meaty foods including brine shrimp, mysis, and even flake an pellet once it realizes that those are food items. If your jawfish refuses to come out to eat, food can be placed near it's burrow using a pipette.

Sexing/Breeding: Sexing is rather difficult and not always reliable. These fish are paternal mouth brooders which means that the males hold the eggs and fry until they hatch and are free-swimming. The males tend to have larger skulls, lips, and chin pouches. They are also bigger. He does a courtship dance around the female by swimming near her burrow with fins extended toward her. They breed in captivity, but like many SW species the fry are difficult to raise.

My yellowheads


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