by TFH Magazine on March 21, 2013 at 7:05 am
The lawnmower blenny (Salarias fasciatus). Photograph by Scott Michael.
In the April 2013 issue, Scott Michael described some outstanding reef residents with reknowned algae eating abilities, the lawnmower blennies. If the article has inspired you to acquire some, here is Scott’s list of lawnmower blennies that are available in the aquarium trade.
By Scott Michael
The whitespotted blenny (Salarias alboguttatus) is a smaller species (3½ inches) than S. fasciatus, that is grayish overall with numerous white spots on the head. There are seven or eight bars on the body and unbranched cirri over each eye. It is found from the Philippines to Samoa, south to the Great Barrier Reef, where it occurs on lagoon patch reefs and fringing coastal reefs at depths of 3 to at least 13 feet. The whitespotted blenny occurs singly and rasps microalgae off hard substrates. This smaller Salarias spp. is less of a threat toward other blennies and trophic competitors than larger members of the genus. You can keep more than one individual in tanks as small as 100 gallons.Seram blenny (S. ceramensis). Photograph by Scott Michael.
The Seram blenny (S. ceramensis) is a larger species (it reaches 6 inches) that ranges from Sumatra east to the Solomon Islands, north to the Philippines, and possibly south to the Great Barrier Reef. It occurs on coastal reefs and lagoon patch reefs at depths of 3 to at least 100 feet. The Seram blenny is found among rubble and/or macroalgae and is often found on silty reefs. Its husbandry requirements are very similar to other larger members of the genus (see S. fasciatus below). Its greater bulk makes it a greater threat toward other fishes, and, therefore, care must be taken when selecting tankmates (especially other herbivores). Keep one per tank unless you can acquire a pair or your tank is very large (180 gallons or more). S. ceramensis is not as common in the aquarium trade as S. fasciatus.
The Seram blenny is very similar to the more common S. fasciatus. It differs in having a dark chest and belly and a large dark blotch near the pectoral fin. S. ceramensis also has 15 pectoral fin rays, while S. fasciatus has 14. The obscure blenny (S. obscurus) is another large member of the genus (it reaches a length of 5 inches) that is known only from the western Philippines. It is dark overall with light gray mottling on the snout and the back of the head.The jeweled or lawnmower blenny (S. fasciatus). Photograph by Scott Michael.
The jeweled or lawnmower blenny (S. fasciatus) attains a length of 5½ inches and ranges from the Red Sea and East Africa east to Samoa, north to the Ryukyu Islands, south to the Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia. S. fasciatus has eight irregular bars (with white spots on each bar) that have white ovals on the lighter interspaces. There are also wavy lines on the front of the body.
The jeweled blenny is found on fringing reefs, lagoon patch reefs, reef flats, and outer reef faces at depths of less than 3.3 to 26 feet. It has also been reported from estuarine habitats. It is often found among coral rubble with associated macroalgae growth. It feeds by rasping microalgae off hard substrates. The jeweled blenny will attack other blennies (especially smaller or similar-sized individuals) that enter its territory. It will also chase other grazers, especially smaller damselfishes.
A resident S. fasciatus will not tolerate another blenny in its territory. If a tank is large enough, subordinate confamilials may be able to avoid an aggressive jeweled blenny. But if space is limited, a newly added blenny or smaller individual is likely to be harassed to death. While S. fasciatus is infrequently aggressive toward non-related species in the wild, they may pick on heterospecifics in the aquarium. They have been known to attack smaller fish species (e.g., smaller hawkfishes, juvenile anemonefishes, firefishes, and dartfishes) and odd-shaped species that are not adept swimmers (e.g., seahorses, pipefishes, boxfishes). If you want to keep it with smaller fishes (especially those that are substrate bound) add these fishes before the blenny and/or keep them in a larger tank.
The starry blenny (S. ramosus) has become much more abundant in the aquarium trade. that the head and body of this attractive species are covered with tiny white spots. The spots are larger and fewer in smaller specimens. This species also has highly branched cirri over each eye. S. ramosus reaches 5½ inches and is found from the Philippines south to northwestern Australia. This attractive blenny is found on fringing reefs and protected patch reefs. It has also been reported from estuaries. It occurs at depths of 5 to at least 50 feet. The starry blenny rests and feeds among coral rubble and macroalgae. As with others in the genus, it rasps hard substrates with its comb-like dentition. It usually occurs singly, although it is occasionally seen in small groups.
S. ramosus has only recently been entering the aquarium trade. Keep one per tank, and be aware that it might quarrel with other members of the genus. While it is a very handsome fish, it can wreak havoc in the reef tank. It has been known to nip at tridacnid clam mantles and large-polyped stony corals. It has also been known to pester motile invertebrates (e.g., shrimps and serpent stars).