mong conspicuous fish groups that divers come
across in tropical and subtropical seas, sandperches are an
anomaly. Why aren’t they offered for sale as aquarium fish?
Many are brightly patterned and colored. They’re certainly
humorous in their wide-based pelvic fin scooting behavior,
ever curious as to what is going on in their world. On the
sandy and mixed rocky bottom settings where they occur, they
can be found in abundance, and for pet fish collectors, they’re
less difficult to gather than many popular blennies and gobies.
All told, the family Pinquipedidae comprises five recognized
genera and about 60 species, with only a few occasionally
showing up as a rare occurrence in fish shops. Sandperches
occur on both sides of the tropical Atlantic and widely
throughout the Indo-Pacific.
All sandperches share the same general body plan: a near-cylindrical, elongated shape, long, continuous dorsal and anal
fins, and a square to lunate caudal. They have large upward
and forward eyes and large terminal mouths. Like lizardfishes
and blennies, which they’re often mistaken and labeled as,
most pinquipedids spend their time on the bottom, perching
at times on rock and corals to espy the small invertebrates and
fish they feed on.
Other than their comical perching and
jetting about on the bottom, a major attraction of
these fishes underwater is their feeding strategy
of following foraging fish.
A latticed surfperch (Parapercis clathrata) rests on a
sea star off Gato Island, Philippines.