Monday, June 15, 2015

Chinese banner

"Chinese banner" diptych, 2 panels of 40x50cm (total length 1m.)
In 2011 a new species of Chaetodontidae, Heniochus diphreutes, was found by comparative analysis of the morphological characteristics in a taxonomic revision of the family Chaetodontidae in China. Have a look at the elongated dorsalfin and you will know why their popular name is Bannerfish. 
The species has been imported many times as H. acuminatus. Interesting for marine aquarists as H. diphreutes is considered 'reef safe' while H. acuminatus is known to nibble on corals. So, to avoid your collection of live corals being destroyed by your Bannerfish, the question is, how can the two species be distinguished? 

Heniochus diphreutes (left) and H. acuminatus (right)
Well, if you like details you may consider to do some counting. H. diphreutes usually has 12 spines in its dorsal fin and 2-3 rows of teeth on both jaws (versus 11 spines and 5-7 rows of teeth in H. acuminatus). As Bannerfish are active swimmers I reckon counting is not the easiest way. Luckily there are more distinguishable, external characters available. The ventral profile of the head is convex in H. diphreutes (versus almost straight); the anal fin more angular, and the black area on the posterior part of the anal fin usually extending anteriorly to the longest soft ray (versus more round, and usually not extending anteriorly to longest soft ray in H. acuminatus). Probably the easiest way to tell the two species apart is the length of the snout, which is considerably shorter than the eye in H. diphreutes

Want to know more about these fish? Here's the full description:
Have fun reading's in Chinese.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Pterapogon kauderni is a popular fish in the marine aquariumhobby. Kauderni's are mouthbreeders, which makes the species 'easy' to breed. The photo shows the juveniles in the mouth of the father, shortly before they are released. Great photo which I admire because it takes much, much patience to make pictures like this. I have been sitting in front of my breeders tank, on my knees, for over an hour. Trying to film the spawning of a pair kauderni's, without any luck. That is, they were 'dancing' (mostly vibrating their bodies), but I couldn't film the actual moment when the male would take the eggs in his mouth.

Breeding and raising kauderni's is great fun. If you have any experience in breeding fish, kauderni's will not be any problem. I have raised several broods of these pyama fish. Although I often missed the moment the young fish were released by the father, a number of juveniles always end up in the filter system. Contrary to the anemone fish, or clownfish, there are no misbars or color forms of Pterapogon kauderni. As far as known, there also is only one color type in nature.
There is a lot of quarreling about the status of kaudernis. Threatened, endangered or...not? It seems they are far less endangered as mostly believed. A second population has been found. Introduced to the new area by fishermen. But very succesful. If you like to keep them in your marine aquarium, ask for captive bred specimens. They are easier to keep. Even easier to breed. Considering the succesful breeding records by many fish breeders, wild caught specimens are not necessary. Whether they are threatened or not.

Kaudernis are also known as Banggai Cardinals, or Pyama Cardinals. When I was doing the painting, pictured hereby, another idea came to my mind. I made a limited series of nine 'rockies'. Small stones,15x15cm, painted on both sides. Front side a Banggai Cardinal,back side a smaller copy of my seahorse series. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Something completely different

Last weeks blog was about a Butterflyfish, member of the Chaetodontidae. Larvae of Chaetodon, like most marine fish, completely differ from the adult specimens. I'm presently working on larvae of the Cyprinodontidae, a family of freshwater fishes. Studying the available literature I found this article of Carole Baldwin. It includes magnificent pictures of marine fish larvae. Fish larvae are amazing, sometimes incredible and bizarre, creatures which differ so much from their ancestors, many of them have been described as new species in the past. 

Photo by Christopher Paparo (in Baldwin, 2013).
A tank reared specimen.
Knowledge of the larval stages, also known as Early Life History, is not only fascinating. It's also important to understand the relationships and variety of fish. Whereas most scientists use preserved specimens, I prefer to study live material. As fish larvae are rather small, most of them only a few mm long, it is rather difficult to make good pictures. I use combinations of photos to create line drawings. Some of the pictures in Baldwins article are truly amazing and outstanding. And surprising. Who would have guessed the photo in this blog is a larva of the fish in the painting I made? Liopropoma rubre, also known as the Peppermint Bass, is a territorial fish, found at greater depths in the Western Atlantic (from southern Florida and the Bahamas to northern South America). 

Take a look at the great pictures in: Carole C. Baldwin (2013): "The phylogenetic significance of colour patterns in marine teleost larvae" - Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 168, 496–563. With 52 figures

Buy the painting in my ETSY-shop.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cheek trick

Butterflies inspire me. The ones flying around in the garden, but most of all the ones rolicking around the coral reef: butterflyfish. This Chaetodon semilarvatus, or Blue Masked Butterflyfishis a great example Yellow beauties, usually seen in pairs or hiding under table corals. The remarkable blue eye patch hides the eye and confuses predators.
These butterfly fishes live around coral, at depths from 3 to 20 m. They are very common throughout the Red Sea. (IUCN status says: 'Least Concern' . Always nice to know there still are species which are not threathened!).
Butterfly fish or Chaetodontidae are small, colorful fishes with a continuous dorsal fin which gives them their special look. "Chaetodontidae" is based on Greek, meaning "bristle teeth". If you're crazy enough to check it out, you will find they indeed have small, brush-like teeth. Most species of butterfly fish are active during the day, resting among corals or rocks at night. 
A number of species feeds on coral polyps. These species tend to be territorial. When a coral, or a part of the coral, is attacked by the fish, the surrounding polyps withdraw as far as they can into their protective skeletons. The butterfly fish then has to move further along the reef. Species congregating in large shoals are generally planctivores. Many species, like this Bue Masked Butterfly, are heterosexual pairs that may remain together for years, some even say for life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Aqua circus

Crop circles found in fields have become a familiar sight. More recently mysterious, geomatric circles of sand have been discovered under water.

Notably the first crop circle was described in the 1678 news pamphlet "Strange News Out of Hartfordshire" (UK). The phenomenon became widely known in the late 1980s, after the media started to report about crop circles in the UK. Despite rumors about their alien origin, there is a scientific consensus that in nearly all cases crop circles are man-made. However there has been almost no serious scientific study of the phenomenon. In 1991, two hoaxers, Bower and Chorley, claimed authorship of many circles throughout the UK. To date, approximately 10,000 crop circles have been reported internationally. 
Detail of the painting 'Aqua circus'.
Click here to buy this painting in my ETSY-shop.

The mysterious circles under water have been explained by biologists who filmed a small, then unidentified, puffer fish building a circle. The male Japanese puffer fish created a perfect geometric circle; a nest to lure females. The rather dull colored puffer is hard to see as his coloration resembles the sandy ground of the ocean floor. Perfect for camouflage, but hopeless when you are looking for a female. The circle certainly draws the attention of the opposite sex. The first scientific report on this behavior was published in Nature in 2013. The puffer itself has been described more recent by Keiichi Matsuura (see referenceand given the name, Torquigener albomaculosus, referring to the many white spots on its body (albus = white; and maculatus = spotted). The BBC has released a video of the circle builder: 

Since the early 1990s, the UK arts collective named Circlemakers founded by artists Rod Dickinson and John Lundberg (lateron including artists Wil Russell and Rob Irving), have been creating crop circles in the UK and around the world both as part of their art practice and for commercial clients. Undoubtedly the puffer has been building his circled nest long before humans decided to create crop circles. Long before the first reported circles of 1678. The diptych pictured above is my impression of this remarkable fish and its behavior. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Family affair

So, what's the story on this one? There's no spectacular story accompanying this description, but I liked the appearence and coloration of the new species. What else do you need to make a painting?
A brand new, beautiful new species of Luzonichthys is described from two specimens, 42-46 mm standard length, collected from Pohnpei, Micronesia. It is named seaver, for the Seaver family in recognition of support from the Seaver Institute for marine research. 

Collections of the new species were made by divers (7 October 2014) on mixed-gas closed-circuit rebreathers using hand nets at depths of 90-100 m. Luzonichthys seaver is found at rock outcrops along a steep slope at top of a drop-off.  

The genus Luzonichthys Herre 1936 now consists of seven species of small, slender serranids within the subfamily Anthiinae, distributed throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. The genus is distinguished from other anthiine genera in general body size and shape, and in possessing two fully separated dorsal fins, two opercular spines, and 11+15 vertebrae. Seaver is distinct from all other species of the genus in the characters of lateral line scales, gill rakers, pelvic fin length, caudal concavity and coloration. Of the six species of Luzonichthys, it appears to be morphologically most similar to L. earlei and L. whitleyi.

Read the full decription here: Copus, Joshua M., Cassie A Ka'apu-Lyons, Richard L. Pyle (2015): "Luzonichthys seaver, a new species of Anthiinae(PerciformesSerranidae) from Pohnpei, Micronesia"- Biodiversity Data Journal 3: e4902 (27 Apr 2015)

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Seahorses are some of the most popular fishes. Everybody knows them. The very first drawing I had published in a 'magazine' was a self made copy of a seahorse. It was an illustration I had submitted with a very short story which I mainly had copied from a book. Hey, I was around eight or ten at the time! I had not learned about copyright in those days. Now I know copying is considered art in China... 

This 'first edition' seahorse had been published in a monthly newsletter. A stencil (remember those?). I have lost the copy (of my copy) but the organisation still exists. Delftse Natuurwacht is a foundation actively working with kids. All kinds of activities motivate them to understand and learn about nature. 

After all these years I still like seahorses. A few years ago my youngest daughter and I have been breeding them. Yellow Brazilian seahorses, Hippocampus reidi. Most of them turned out black within a few weeks. As seahorses also like to copy. They use camouflage to become one with their enironment. If you want your colored seahorses to maintain their colors, you'll have to add bright colored items into your fish tank. We added yellow pots and rope. 

Recently I started to create limited series of ID's (short for Identicals). Another process of copying, but in this case all copies are original artworks. If you want to know why I make handmade copies, read this blog. If you're interested in obtaining an ID of this Copycat Seahorse series, check my ETSYshop. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fish gear

Not long ago, it was generally believed humans were the only 'animals' that use tools. A major proof of human exceptionalism. Nowadays we are well aware of animals using tools (i.e. chimpanzees using tools to collect ants from their nests; dolphins using sponges to protect their noses as they scour the ocean bottom for food and birds using sticks to collect ants). Now chimps and dolphins are considered as the most intelligent creatures amongst animals. But fish, often considered to be the least brainy of all animals, using tools in the same way as other animals? That's a remarkable feature.

Giacomo Bernardi, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Wrote about it in the journal "Coral Reefs":  "We observed an individual of Choerodon anchorago cracking bivalves using a rock as an anvil. After two such events, we started filming the behavior, which was repeated a third time... It requires a lot of forward thinking, because there are a number of steps involved. For a fish, it’s a pretty big deal.”

The Anchor Tuskfish, showing 
its impressive teeth. 
(Photo Ned DeLorach)
Check out the video, to see Choerodon anchorago, the "Anchor" or "Orange-dotted Tuskfish, digging out a clam, carrying it to a suitable rock and then throwing the clam against the rock to break it open. Even without being a handyman, using stones as gear, the Anchor Tuskfish has ways to open up clams. Take a look at the impressive teeth at the photo and you will understand how the job is done.

You know, I won't be suprised if one of these days Sponge Bob appears to be a true species.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Only $ 19,95!

The Bladefin basslet, Jeboehlkia gladifer, which is rarely being offered for sale in the aquariumtrade, is an incredible reef fish. It's only about 3 cm (1.5 inches) long and probably one of the most expensive reef fish that has ever been offered to the aquarium hobby. An adult specimen will approximately cost you $ 8,000.-. That makes roughly $ 5,000.- an inch!

J. gladifer was described from a single, mature female specimen collected in the Caribbean at 165 meters depth  (approx. 550 feet). This is also the reason for the incredibly high cost of this bladefin basslet. Catching fish at depths of 150 meters depth raises costs. It's striking white and red coloration make it very attractive. The elongated dorsal fin distinguish Jeboehlkia from Liopropoma species. Even larvae show this remarkable elongated fin (Baldwin,1991).

Bit short on money? No worries, a T-shirt with the painted fish (the image at this blog) will only cost you $ 19,95... 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fragile dragons

Last month a new seadragon has been described: Phyllopteryx dewysea, the red seadragon. Seadragons are related to seahorses and pipefish. Remarkable creatures with extreme fins. The entire body is camouflaged, resembling pieces of coral. The Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus eques, has by far the most outrageous fins and filaments. The Red Seadragon is known by three specimens only. Its distribution range therefor limited to the only two places the species has been caught. (The holotype was trawled east of the remote Recherche Archipelago in 51 m; additional specimens extend the distribution west to Perth in 72 m). Like its relatives the red sea dragon is considered endangered. 
The image shows a male carrying brood at its tail. Just like Pipefish, Seadragon males are taking care of the eggs until hatching. Compared to the only two species of Seadragons, the new species is easily distinguishable. The Leafy Seadragon has far more filaments and shows an overall coloration which is more greenish. The filaments resemble seaweeds. The second species, the common seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, has more stripes and a dorsal fin positioned much more backward as in the red sea dragon (although it's hard to tell where the dorsal is...). The red sea dragon has the shortest filaments of all three species and shows a remarkable red coloration.

Read the first description online: Stiller, J., Wilson, N.G. & Rouse, G.W. (2015): "A spectacular new species of seadragon (Syngnathidae)." - Royal Society Open Science2: 140458.

Original painting, as pictured above, on 36x52 cm white paper. One of a kind, available for $ 79.95. 
Tees, Mugs and other cool fish stuff based on my blog entries are available at my webshop: QueerFish

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Emperor's new mask

The Emperor Angelfish, Pomacanthus imperator, is one of the most impressive fish available in the aquarium trade. Like many marine fish, juveniles show a completely different coloration. An odd pattern of electric white circles upon an dark blue, almost black background. Only adults have the beautiful striping and the magnificent yellow and blue mask as shown in the painting. It's a favorite among photographers, artists, and aquarists because of its unique, brilliant pattern of coloration. Adults have bulky, strong jaws usuable to chew upon sponges made up of tiny, needle-like pieces of silica. Mind you, this would be the equivalent of a human chewing on small fragments of glass!

In fact the painting is a so called 'trompe l'oeil'. What you see, actually is not there. The composition consists of sand drippings, all together creating the image of the Emperor's mask, while in fact I did not paint a fish. Nevertheless the fish is there. And not even nude like Hans Christian Andersen's emperor. ("The Emperor's New Clothes").

Original painting, as pictured above, 100x100 cm acrylics and sand on canvas. One of a kind - SOLD 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A cup of fish

Sometimes new discovered fish end up with remarkable names. Most names refer to particularities of the body, the place of origin or the name of the first collector. The basslet pictured here, described in December 2013, is named for its coloration. The authors have explained that the overall coloration of the basslet reminded them of cappuccino. So Starbucks, there's a new item you may add to the list: Acanthoplesiops cappuccino.  

The first desciption is available online: Gill, Anthony C., Sergey V. Bogorodsky & Ahmad O. Mal (2013): "Acanthoplesiops cappuccino, a new species of acanthoclinine fish from the Red Sea (Teleostei: Plesiopidae)" - Zootaxa 3750 (3): 216–222

Prints, Cards, Tees and more (like the great mug pictres underneath!) are available at my printshop.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Real Thing

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It's nice to mesh around (on paper that is) with fish. Yesterday's entry is a nice example, but  Copperband Butterflies are natural beauties. Is there anything which can beat the 'real thing'?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Buy this item, or one of the other items of this series, in my ETSY shop.

I've been working on a small sculpture lately, based on the beautiful "Copperband Butterflyfish" or Chelmon rostratus. These long beaked coral fish, are found in thePacific and Indian Ocean, fluttering around coral reefs.

Copperbands are easily identified by the yellow banding and long snout, their compressed, deep-bodied form, long dorsal and posterior fins and most of all the typical, vertical yellow stripes on a greyish-white background.

First designs of my sculpture not only emphasize the long and slender snout, but also the ocellus (dark eye-spot) on the dorsal fin. As the sculpture isn't meant to be a realistic image, I have played with the Copperband's specific characters by enlarging the snout and pelvic fins and cutting out the ocellus and one of the vertical bands.
The long beak is used to eat invertebrates, hidden within coral rock. One of the main reasons of its popularity in the aquarium trade as it also eats glass anemones, Aiptasia, which is considered a plague in the marine aquarium. The long needle-like beak inspired me to name the sculpture  'Lance' (as in 'lancet'). 

As the sketches hereby indicate, it will be available in several color patterns. Size approximately 20cm. 

Multicolored ID's of the image above are available in mu ETSY-shop. ID's, short for Identicals, are handmade copies, similar to the orginal., handmade and therefor not 100% identical but they are 100% original!
Note this series of copies is limited to 30 ID´s.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eat dirt.

We humans prefer to chew chewing gum, or some other stuff which probably isn't to good for your health (or maybe addicting...). Some fish just like to chew upon some heavier stuff, like gravel! Valenciennea eats dirt. The grudgeons chew upon it, spit out the real dirt through their gills trying to keep anything eatable within their mouth. A great thing to obseerve in an aquarium. It will surprise anyone who never has seen this behavior before. To the Valenciennea it is simply a matter of survival.
So...anyone in for a Gravel Burger?

P.S. Valenciennea comes in a wide variety of colors. Most species have a rather dull greyish body with vertical bars in red, ore brownish red. Some however show great coloration, like this Valeciennea strigata, well known for its striking yellow head, with blue iridescent stripes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Oh come on! Did you really think I can't make a drawing of real clowns? Made this study for a painting which will have clownfish in several, non existing, colors. (No need to get really serious, do we...?)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cirque de sous-mer

Ask anyone if they know a fish and they will answer you "Clowwnfish!". Or as a matter of fact: "Nemo!". 
Nemo seems to be the official alter ego of clownfish nowadays. I must admit, the beautiful Amphiprion ocellaris, as it's officially namedstill is one of my favorite marine fish. Kept them for many years and even have been able to breed them myself. 

Clownfish are one of the marine fish which are commercially bred. More and more species are being bred in captivity, which is good. But the clownfish have become the 'guppies of the sea'. Breeders have taken advantage of the natural diversity of the funny clowns, so now the anemonefish are available in a large variety of colors. We've got snowflakes, misbars, goldflakes, platinums and even Picasso clownfish. 

No doubt about the role of Picasso in art history, but he cannot compete with the inventivity of M.C. Escher. No breeder will be able to create a real life version of my image of an 'Escher Clownfish'...  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The way up

Those were the days... As a young boy I used to catch my own pipefish. Along the beach of Monster. Yep, believe it or not, there is a village called Monster! Located along the North Sea, only a few kilometres south of The Hague. The pipefish my brother and I caught, were simple, a bit drabby colored 'Small Pipefish' (Syngnathus rostellatus). They accidently ended up in the shrimpnet which we had fabricated ourselves. And after a nice bit of begging, we were allowed to take some of the 'pipes' back home. There we took care of them in a mini-aquarium we had placed in the backyard.

Nowadays several species of Pipefish are available for the tropical marine aquarium. Nicely colored and all having this awesome shape. The 'Banded Pipefish' is one of the most well known species. In nature, adult specimens are living in pairs, while the juveniles are living in groups. Its fancy, quiet behavior combined with its remarkable black and white bands and the flashing red caudalfin are making them real eyecatchers. Sometimes they are hanging above corals, hovering like a helicopter, only their eyes actively moving around. Most of the times they are actively hunting for small prey. Their elongated beak gives them access to the smallest holes between the coral. There they catch their prey. Maybe I should say 'suck' their prey, because, just like seahorses, they suck up their food. There's an interesting study about the development of this hunting procedureSam van Wassenbergh, Gert Roos & Lara Ferry: "An adaptive explanation for the horse-like shape of seahorses". - Nature Communications, Volume 2, no. 164. During evolution from pipefish to seahorse the hunting procedure has evolved and been perfected. 'Modern' seahorses can now hang around at their territory, just waiting for small prey to pass by and then...the little suckers are sucked. Pipefish are a little bit old fashioned. They still have to move around to catch their meal. So, no drive-in for them, but drive around...

Prints, mugs and other cool fish stuff based on my blog entries are available at my printshop.