The squirrelfish are often overlooked for fish-only marine aquariums. They are one of the few families of fish that include many species that exhibit red pigmentation, a characteristic that they share with other groups of nocturnal fish. Even though they are attractive, squirrelfish are not for everyone. Many of the species tend to be rather secretive during the day (although the bloodspot squirrelfish is less reclusive than most others in the family), more often venturing out into the open when light levels are low.
The bloodspot squirrelfish (Neoniphon samara) is one species that is often available to marine aquariumkeepers and is certainly worthy of consideration. It tends to be a bolder species that will spend more time in full view.
Difficulty: The bloodspot squirrelfish is relatively easy to keep. The key is providing the bloodspot squirrelfish with useable hiding places, such as large caves and wider crevices. If your new bloodspot squirrelfish feels secure in its new aquarium, and is not harassed by other tankmates, it will gradually adjust to its new life in captivity.
Feeding N. samara can be tricky initially. Try feeding it frozen seafood (chopped to a size that the fish can ingest whole), frozen preparations for marine carnivores, mysid shrimp and krill. The bloodspot squirrelfish may be reluctant to dash out to snap-up food at first, but with time it will become bolder. If your bloodspot squirrelfish does not come out and eat, try feeding it when the room lights are off and the aquarium lights have been dimmed.
Physical description: The bloodspot squirrelfish is elongate, with a pointed snout and a forked tail. The bloodspot squirrelfish is silver overall with thin stripes along its body. The dorsal fin is important when it comes to recognizing this fish: there is a big black spot at the front of the fin, with white markings at the base and ends of the spines. The bloodspot squirrelfish is most similar to the blackfin squirrelfish (N. opercularis), which has a dorsal fin that is almost entirely black (rather than just a black spot). The bloodspot squirrelfish reaches a maximum length of around 12 inches.
Range: The bloodspot squirrelfish is wide-ranging in the Indo-Pacific, occurring from the Red Sea east all the way to the Hawaiian Islands. The bloodspot squirrelfish is found at depths of 5 to 150 feet on patch reefs, reef faces and forereef slopes. Bloodspot squirrelfish are often found hanging out near crevices and large stands of staghorn coral during the day. When threatened, they slip into a shelter. The bloodspot squirrelfish is often observed singly, but it occasionally occurs in groups.
The bloodspot squirrelfish feeds on a variety of invertebrates, but it has a soft spot for crabs. Neoniphon samara does most of its hunting after dark.
Compatibility: The bloodspot squirrelfish is a good addition for a community of medium-sized fish. The bloodspot squirrelfish is not aggressive toward nonrelated species, unless they attempt to take over its preferred hiding place. The bloodspot squirrelfish may also squabble with soldierfish and other squirrelfish. You should keep only one bloodspot squirrelfish per aquarium.
The bloodspot squirrelfish will eat small fish that it can swallow whole. Although not a threat to sessile invertebrates, the bloodspot squirrelfish will feed on a variety of motile invertebrates, including worms, crustaceans (including crabs and ornamental shrimp) and serpent stars.
Aquarium conditions: The key to keeping any squirrelfish is the provision of good shelter sites. This can include caves, overhangs and large crevices. Acceptable water parameters for the bloodspot squirrelfish would be a pH of 8.1 to 8.4, specific gravity of 1.019 to 1.025 and a water temperature of 74 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Care considerations: On rare occasions, the bloodspot squirrelfish has been known to leap from open aquariums, so tight-fitting aquarium hoods are in order. Individuals may rub against shipping bags during transport and rub the flesh off the bone at the tip of their lower jaws. In most cases, this heals rapidly, but it is prudent to let it heal at the fish store rather than taking the injured fish home with an infected wound. Fortunately, the bloodspot squirrelfish is not prone to suffering from parasitic infections.
Breeding: The bloodspot squirrelfish is not likely to spawn in home aquaria.