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Harlequin Bass

(Serranus tigrinus)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Easy   • Temperament: Semi-aggressive   • Maximum Size: 4"
• Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons   • Water Conditions: 72-80° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Western Atlantic
• Family: Serranidae   • Species: Basslets   • Aquarium Type: Reef Compatible

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Native Habitat and Species Information

Harlequin Bass native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Harlequin Bass are an easily identifiable, impressive species that are in the same family as groupers and sea bass, but at much more manageable size, making them very popular within the aquarium community. Native to the tropical waters of the Western Atlantic, the Harlequin Bass spends a lot of its time hunting for crustaceans along the rock and scattered coral of reefs. They normally work alone or in pairs and get their name from their agility as well as their appearance, reminiscent of historical jesters with their contrasting, multiple black bars and lines that form irregular rectangular patterns along their bodies.

Harlequin Bass have long and pointed snouts with a black and white mottling on their dorsal half; as well as a vivid yellow and black mottling on their ventral half, making them distinctly easy to identify. Due to their attractive appearance and mannerisms, Harlequin Bass are readily available through online retailers for reasonable prices which may be unexpected for such a striking species.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Harlequin Bass in the home aquarium.

Harlequin Bass are an extremely hardy species, but they can also be quite active and like to have room to swim around; they should be kept in an aquarium that is no less than 30 gallons and provided with plenty of live rock as well as fine sand to crushed coral substrate where they can use their long snouts to their advantage. In a "nano" environment, a protein skimmer is a welcome addition to a standard biological and mechanical filtration setup as the species can be big eaters (like their bass and grouper relatives) and will produce a decent amount of waste for such a small fish.

Although considered "reef safe", use caution when it comes to the cleaning crew and tiny fish species as they could eventually be on the dinner menu. Harlequin Bass are generally peaceful with other similar sized tank mates, but will be very aggressive to others of their kind unless they are a mated pair; they should be solitary unless a pair can be formed.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to feed and provide proper nutrition for Harlequin Bass.

Although they mainly feed on crustaceans and small fish in the wild, they should be fed a variety of meaty food items such as live, frozen, freeze-dried, and vitamin enriched brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, chopped krill, and small/chopped silver sides; they will also readily accept small carnivore/omnivore pellets and flake foods. Variety is the name of the game when it comes to overall and long term health. Feed 2 times per day.

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