The subfamily Anthiinae includes some of the most colorful tropical fish one can find on a coral reef. Unfortunately, there are many that do not fare well in home aquariums unless special care is provided. For this reason, many anthias species are better left to the experts. But for those with less experience that want to give the subfamily a try, Pseudanthias bartlettorum (Bartlett’s anthias) is the species for you.
Difficulty: Pseudanthias bartlettorum is a good “starter fish” because it can withstand a little more abuse than many of its anthias relatives. But like all anthias, the key to keeping the beautiful Bartlett’s anthias healthy is to provide plenty of nutrient-rich food. The food should be meaty in nature, including finely shaved frozen seafood (shrimp), frozen fish eggs, frozen foods for herbivores and frozen Cyclops. These foods should be provided to your Bartlett’s anthias three times a day.
Physical Description: Bartlett’s anthias has a stunning pink color over much of its body, with yellow on the back and dorsal fin. Male and female Bartlett’s anthias differ in color, with males having a yellow scale center and violet margins on the caudal fin. Males also have a longer second dorsal spine, very long pelvic fins and a protrusion on their upper lip. Bartlett’s anthias reach a maximum length of around 3.5 inches.
Range: The Bartlett’s anthias is found around the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Tonga. The Bartlett’s anthias tends to inhabit current-prone regions of the reef face and reef slope, often occurring in more shallow water (less than 50 feet). The Bartlett’s anthias occurs in large groups that swim about in the water column looking for food (zooplankton). When a predator comes on the scene, the Bartlett’s anthias will dash back to the safety of the reef.
Compatibility: Anthias always look better in their natural social unit — that is, a shoal. The problem is that anthias shoals are not egalitarian in nature. In a true school, all members of the group are equal in social status. But this is not the case in an anthias shoal. Instead, a group (often a subunit in a much larger shoal) consists of a dominant male and a group of females that also maintain a pecking order among themselves. If you add more than one male to your tank (unless it is very large – e.g., 200 gallons or more), the male Bartlett’s anthias are likely going to tear each other apart. Likewise, the male may continue to assert his dominance over his harem to discourage any of them from changing into a male. The best way to keep a group of Pseudanthias bartlettorum is to add a single male and three or more females. While the Bartlett’s anthias may beat up on each other, they are typically not overly aggressive toward non-relatives. The only exception may be smaller zooplankton-feeders, such as flasher wrasses and dartfish. If Bartlett’s anthias are housed in an aquarium that is large enough, these squabbles will not cause any serious concern. Anthias are often targets of more bellicose species, such as dottybacks, hawkfish and large damsels. They might also fall victim to piscivores, such as frogfish, scorpionfish and groupers.
Aquarium Conditions: Provide your Pseudanthias bartlettorum with lots of open swimming space and moderate to strong water flow. An aquarium of at least 135 gallons will be required to keep a group of Pseudanthias bartlettorum. Because you will need to feed the Bartlett’s anthias often, a good protein skimmer and some chemical filtrants will help maintain optimal water quality. Acceptable water parameters for the Bartlett’s anthias would be: pH of 8.1 to 8.4, specific gravity of 1.019 to 1.025 and a water temperature of 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Care Considerations: While anthias look great in groups, it is possible to keep a solitary Pseudanthias bartlettorum if you don’t have the resources to house a shoal. Just make sure the single Bartlett’s anthias fish gets enough to eat and is not bullied. While anthias are not notorious leapers, a Pseudanthias bartlettorum may hurl itself out of an open aquarium.
Breeding: As mentioned above, the Bartlett’s anthias is a hermaphrodite, with males resulting from female sex change. When Bartlett’s anthias spawn, a male and female will dash in the water and release their pelagic gametes. In very large systems, anthias have been known to spawn. However, to this point, no one has raised the eggs and larvae.