The Pinnatus Batfish is one of the most striking species of saltwater aquarium fish, but notoriously difficult to keep in the home aquarium.
Keeping a marine tank full of fish happy and healthy can be quite a challenge. Not only do you have to deal with the added difficulties of maintaining and monitoring salinity levels in addition to all of the traditional aspects of freshwater tank water quality, but you also have more challenges in dealing with the fish themselves. Many saltwater fish kept in the marine aquarium hobby are wild-caught which means that they aren’t used to being kept in captivity. This being the case, they often do not accept commercial foods and sometimes die of starvation despite there being plenty of food available. The Pinnatus Batfish is one of these breeds which has been notoriously difficult to keep in the home aquarium until a recent dietary discovery changed that.
About Pinnatus Batfish
Known by the scientific name Platax pinnatus, the Pinnatus Batfish is a very striking species. This fish is known for its solid black/brown body with round fins having brilliant orange tipping. These fish are also referred to as the Dusky Batfish for the Red-Faced Batfish, due to their coloration. Not only are these fish incredibly unique in appearance, but they are also amazing to behold swimming around the aquarium in slow motion, their fins flowing. This fish can grow up to 18 inches and thus they should only be kept in aquariums of 300 gallons or more. Because they are so difficult to keep, Pinnatus Batfish are recommended for expert aquarium hobbyists only.
Though difficult to keep, Pinnatus Batfish are generally regarded as peaceful fish. They do not do well in reef aquariums because they tend to eat invertebrates like corals and anemones. This species is also particularly susceptible to marine ich, so it is essential that you institute a proper quarantine period before introducing one into your tank. In terms of the tank itself, it should provide plenty of unobstructed room to swim and a variety of live foods to choose from. The feeding habits of this fish are actually the main reason they are so difficult to keep in captivity. Recent dietary discoveries about this species, however, may shed new light on the subject.
Dietary Discovery Sheds New Light
The Pinnatus Batfish tends to be the star of any aquarium it is in. Unfortunately, this stardom may be short-lived because many die within a few days or weeks in captivity – some only last a few hours. This species of batfish tends to have a much higher mortality rate than other species and they do not react well to the stress of shipping and transport. Tank-bred specimens of this species are becoming more available, though they are not yet considered “common” by any means. Fortunately, a group of scientists from James Cook University in Queensland Australia recently made some observations that could change the odds for keeping these batfish alive in captivity.
Pinnatus Batfish are native to the western tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean. They are most common in Australia, though they can also be found off the coast of Wales. These fish tend to live in the inshore areas and coral reef waters, hiding under rocky outcroppings at the edges of the reef. Juveniles tend to inhabit shallow waters, seeking small foods like crustaceans, jellyfish and zooplankton. As part of the study at James Cook University, it was discovered that Pinnatus Batfish also eat seaweed and algae. In fact, they were found to be more effective than over 40 other tested species in removing nuisance seaweed and algae.
Based on this discovery, it has been posited that this species also needs algae as part of its diet in order to thrive – this is something that was often lacking in captive environments, possibly leading to the early death of captive specimens. Despite the fact that plenty of food was available, it is now believed that Pinnatus Batfish are prone to malnutrition without access to certain types of algae. Unfortunately, it was long assumed that these fish were carnivorous due to their diet of crustaceans and shrimp. It wasn’t until the James Cook University study took place that scientists realized the necessity of plant foods in the diet of this species. Thanks to this discovery, it is possible for aquarium hobbyists to provide for the nutritional needs of their batfish to increase their lifespan.
If you intend to purchase a Pinnatus Batfish for your own aquarium, take the time to research the species well. You should also realize that this species has very specific requirements in regard to diet – in addition to shrimp, crustaceans and zooplankton, they also require plant foods like dried seaweed and fresh vegetables. It is only if you can provide for the basic needs of your fish that they will survive.
A recent paper published by the Conservation Research Group and the IUCN shows that more than 30 threatened species endemic to India are still being regularly exported, despite their conservation status.