The longnose hawkfish is one of the most popular marine fish kept in aquaria today, and rightly so. For starters, the longnose hawkfish has a look all its own. The longnose hawkfish resembles a pair of needle-nose (aka long-nose) pliers that has settled on the bottom of the aquarium. Perhaps having been inadvertently dropped in the aquarium by a careless hobbyist, the white-and-red, fishnet-print “handle grips” of the “pliers” have a certain Project Runway flair.
The longnose hawkfish is also tough, long-lived and displays an interesting sit-and-wait-while-perching style of hunting. It is recommended that longnose hawkfish tankmates not include small cleaner shrimp or hermit crabs; however, the introduction of small invertebrates would undoubtedly initiate the raptorlike behavior that inspired its common name.
The male longnose hawkfish forms territories and sets up harems of two to seven female longnose hawfish. The longnose hawkfish prefers to live among big gorgonians and among stands of black coral in the ocean.
Physical description: The longnose hawkfish has a long, tapered snout designed so that it can probe tiny crannies in the reefscape for small crustaceans to eat. The male longnose hawkfish is slightly larger and can reach a length of 4 inches. The longnose hawkfish’s large, transparent pectoral fins allow it to easily perch on rocks and corals, including flame corals (these stinging corals afford it protection à la clownfish-anemone symbiosis).
The sexes of the longnose hawkfish are hard to distinguish, although the male longnose hawkfish is purported to possess black edging along its ventral and caudal fins.
The longnose hawkfish is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning the female longnose hawkfish can change into a male if the dominant male longnose hawkfish is taken out of the picture for any reason. This is the only hawkfish species to have successfully bred in aquaria.
Range: Oxycirrhites typus is widespread through much of the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Compatibility: The longnose hawkfish gets along with nearly everything found in the typical reef setup, with the exception of small shrimp and hermit crabs, which it consumes with relish (delight, not a hot dog condiment).
Hardiness: The longnose hawkfish is extremely hardy and resistant to disease.
Level of expertise: The longnose hawkfish is easy to maintain in aquaria.
Aquarium conditions: The longnose hawkfish enjoys water temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit; pH 8.1 to 8.4, dKH 8 to 12, specific gravity 1.020 to 1.025.
Care considerations: The longnose hawkfish needs a goodly amount of rockwork in which to hide itself and to search through for food. The minimum-sized aquarium for a single hawkfish or a pair is 25 gallons, but this would almost relegate it to a single-species setup. Doubling the aquarium size allows for more flexibility in putting together a richer assemblage of fish and invertebrates in which the longnose hawkfish could receive star billing.
The longnose hawkfish can be territorial but coexists nicely with similar- or larger-sized fish.
The longnose hawkfish thrives on a diverse diet of live, frozen and flake fish foods. In aquaria, the longnose hawkfish enjoys brine shrimp, preferably live (live foods provide it with a more natural experience). Several small feedings a day are preferable. Aquarists may want to use a turkey baster or frozen cubes in order to better deliver food to this bottom-dwelling fish.
Special note: Because it lacks a swim bladder, the longnose hawkfish tends to settle on the bottom of the aquarium. This and its propensity to perch means setups housing hawkfish should offer them suitable perches among the rockwork and corals. The longnose hawkfish will rest comfortably on a crushed aragonite substrate, but it is evolutionarily programmed to scan its surroundings from a lofty underwater eyrie.