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Yellowhead Jawfish

(Opistognathus aurifrons)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Peaceful   • Maximum Size: 4"
• Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons   • Water Conditions: 74-82° F, dKH 8-12, sg 1.020-1.025, pH 8.1-8.4
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Caribbean
• Family: Opistognathidae   • Species: Jawfish   • Aquarium Type: Reef Compatible

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Native Habitat and Species Information

Yellowhead Jawfish native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Yellowhead Jawfish are one of the most popular aquarium fishes collected in the tropical west Atlantic (Western Central Atlantic: southern Florida, USA and Bahamas to Barbados and northern South America). They are the most popular and commonly available of the Jawfish species, available from most aquarium stores and online outlets. Yellowhead Jawfish are mouth brooders, with the male practicing oral incubation of the young.

This species is also noted for living in elaborate mouth dug burrows or in similar small caves within coral rock. They are a small fish species (approx 4 inches in the aquarium) that stays close to their burrow at all times. Generally one only sees their heads sticking out of their burrow or rock cave. However, they are interesting fish that with time will become quite inquisitive with their owners and will dart in and out of their burrows in a playful way.

Yellowhead Jawfish have a yellow head and a light blue-green body that fades from lighter at the head to darker at the tail fin. Their bodies are covered with cycloid scales, with their heads being "naked" of scales, spines and other processes, which aids them in burrowing. Overall, this is a smaller fish species with a slim tubular body that can reach up to about 4 inches in the aquarium environment.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Yellowhead Jawfish in the home aquarium.

In the aquarium environment, Yellowhead Jawfish make very interesting tank inhabitants even though they spend most of their times partially in their burrows. When provided with a proper sand and rubble substrate, they will produce their famous tunnel works, after which they will swim in and out of often. They are a hardy species, that are lightning fast and fantastically interactive with each other, thus it is recommended to keep more than one of this species. Multiple specimens provide very interesting behavior as they "dance" up and down in their burrows.

It is best to provide various size rocks among the soft substrate to help reinforce the burrows against them, with rock piles being ideal. They will spend much of their time in its burrow and when it does venture out, will bolt back into its burrow tail first if startled. Like many Gobies and other Jawfish, Yellowhead Jawfish are known to jump out of aquariums; therefore, a full top is recommended. They make excellent additions to nano aquariums and peaceful fish, invertebrate and reef systems.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to feed and provide proper nutrition for Yellowhead Jawfish.

Yellowhead Jawfish can be somewhat shy feeders, as they prefer eating very small live foods that wander near their burrows. However, in the aquarium environment, they can be fed small pieces of mussel, brine shrimp, bloodworms, or other meaty foods. Eventually, prepared foods such as frozen or flake can be offered. This species is generally easier to feed in smaller aquariums or nano aquariums, so that the food can be introduced right at the burrow more easily. Yellowhead Jawfish will not stray far from their burrows to feed, so food will need to be presented to them near their burrow.

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