Harlequin Tuskfish- Yay or Ney for Reef Tank?

stevenliu9

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The Magnificent Mob You Love and Hate: Is Harlequin Tuskfish Right for Your Tank?

Hello Everyone, Steven Here. Thank you for joining me today for another reef chat. If you love reef aquarium and enjoy a good discussion, please help support me by commenting and sharing your experiences in this topic. If you wish to skip reading, please feel free to click the video below to listen to this topic with the fish featured in the video.


Couple Disclaimers:
  1. I am not paid, endorsed, or affiliated with any businesses for creating this content.
  2. I do not claim to be an expert in the area, everything I am sharing is based on my 20+ years experience in this hobby, including retail experience. Please use your own discretion, but also be kind to me and others in this topic.
Let’s dive into our “Is ____ right for your tank” series. Our focus today is the Harlequin Tuskfish. The Harlequin Tuskfish is undoubtedly an eye catcher in any environment, and would be a great discussion topic with any guest for those who are able and willing to house it. It belongs to the wrasse family. One fun fact about the Tuskfish group is that they can “turn” their head, something not many fish can do. This will come into play with their diet, we’ll come back to this topic later.


Look at those tusks!

Let’s discuss the basic care needs for the Harlequin Tuskfish. In the wild, This fish can get close to a foot long and is a very robust, strong swimmer. This translates to need for a tank large enough for the fish to stretch its “legs” and vigorous water movement to help mimic its natural environment. I will not get into the tank size discussion because everyone has different opinion on that. Let’s just say use your best judgement.

As far as its diet, I guess we can cover this topic along with whether or not this fish is “reef safe”. Since “reef safe” is a very ambiguous term, let me just make a quick list of the non-fish creatures you may want to think twice keeping with this creature:
  • Corals– In my experience, they are safe to keep with any and all types of corals.
  • Anemone– At your own risk. As I said they are strong swimmers, but I have seen strong fish get tangled up and eaten by anemones.
  • Crustaceans– At your own risk. In my experience, they will eat any and all crustaceans introduced after it, and devour everything once it grows to mature size.
  • Sea Cucumber– Safe in my experience.
  • Urchins– Safe in my experience, but I have heard of tragedies so at your own risk. Similar rule applies to starfish.
  • Bivalves of any kind (including clams)- No No in my experience.
  • Snails– Also a No No, but I guess depends on size- here is the kicker from their head turning ability. In the wild, they will use the tusks to grip onto the snail shell, twist and “turn” head and body to “unscrew” the snail from rockworks, then swing their head and bang the snail against hard surface to crack the shell and consume it. So if your snailsare small enough for the fish to grip onto, they are fair game. Larger ones may have a better chance to skip its menu, but I can’t guarantee.
  • Other fish- In my experience, a well fed Tuskfish hasn’t shown an appetite to its fish tankmates. But I also try to not keep fish that are “bitesize” alongside any aggressive to semi-aggressive fish. Yes, I’d definitely label Harlequin Tuskfish to be on the aggressive side of the spectrum.
  • Human- Watch for your fingers. Let’s just say I have been snipped and blood shed when sticking my hands in. Always keep an eye on this guy if you are performing tank maintenance. They have the potential to be jerks.

It’s beautiful, but packs a punch sometimes

By now you probably have a good idea on this guy’s diet- they aren’t very picky! literally devours anything you throw in there, even house insects (I’ve thrown flies, beatles and such into the tank and seen my Tuskfish and triggerfish devour them, just extra protein they said).
So are they right for your tank? So let’s count the checkboxes:
  • Do you have a Large enough tank for the fish to grow, and swim freely?
  • Do you have coverage over the tank? They can and will jump!
  • Are you OK with this fish potentially bullying others in the tank, and be a terror to both you and its tankmates?
  • Are you OK with this fish make some rock work rearrangements, and possibly sacrifice some of your clean up crew for its nurishment?
  • Do you like seeing a very entertaining feeding show?
  • Do you LOVE a fish with brilliant coloration, that is RED WHITE and BLUE and super patriotic?
It’s such a strong and shy swimmer that this is the best photo I could get after 20 attempts…

If you answer Yes to all of the above, I’d say give this fish a chance to fall in love with. It truly is a cool fish and I know for as long as I have a tank I’ll always want to have one. They aren’t cheap in today’s market, so please do consider all factors carefully to make sure you can provide this fish, and all other critters in the tank a long and happy life before you commit.

One minor topic- I have seen pictures of Australian and Indonesian versions of this fish. But to be entirely honest with you I cannot tell which one if which if I stumble upon one in the store. Can someone help summarize what is the one thing to look for to tell the difference? also if they have any size/behavior differences based on the region they are collected? Love to hear your comments and experiences with this fish.

Thank you!
 

Reefer5640

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Did you and @Jay Hemdal coordinate these write ups? Both are great. Thank you for all the info and your video is great! I always appreciate the time people put in to sharing their expertise. This write up obviously took a lot of time so thank you very much.
 

OrionN

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I love my Tusk. Never keep a large reef without having one in it.

The easiest way to tell between Australian and Indo is the black coloration on the face. More black on the orange-red bar #2 and #3 in Indo. Give a darker fish with more menacing look
Australia
HarlequinTusk2016010601cheek.jpg


Indo
HarlequinTuskLA Indo4 1.4 inches2cheek.jpg


The bars of the Australian #5, #6, and #7 are much thinner. This is size dependent. The larger the fish, the thinner these bars are proportionally. The fishes below are about the same size. just about 6 inches +/- .5 inch

Australian
HarlequinTuskLAAustralia6inches1.jpg


Indo
HarlequinTuskLA Indo5.5inches1.jpg

HarlequinTuskLA Indo5.75inches1.jpg


Finally, my Australian Tusk. Much smaller than the ones that from LA pictured above.
HarlequinTusk2016051501.jpg
 

Jay Hemdal

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Did you and @Jay Hemdal coordinate these write ups? Both are great. Thank you for all the info and your video is great! I always appreciate the time people put in to sharing their expertise. This write up obviously took a lot of time so thank you very much.

No - I just posted mine as a "reprint" from an article I wrote 15 years ago and gave a quick update to. I see below that people have come up with other ways to tell Aus from Indo on these fish - that's good.

Jay
 

Mono

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Back when I was a "young" reefer I had one but had to re-home it. Of course, a very beautiful fish but quite a lot to handle. He did make a breakfast out of my emerald crab and lunch out of my chromis. I'm also so much more cautious now about placing big fish in small ponds. Coming from the freshwater world, I really didn't understand the whole "ocean" thing. The ocean, she big. I have a 125g display and I wouldn't put a big daddy like that in my tank again. I was so much younger then; I'm older than that now.
 
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stevenliu9

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Did you and @Jay Hemdal coordinate these write ups? Both are great. Thank you for all the info and your video is great! I always appreciate the time people put in to sharing their expertise. This write up obviously took a lot of time so thank you very much.
Haha no I did not, I think would have added a lot more value and content to this write up have I coordinated with him. Alas this was just a casual chat on my experience with this fish. Wasn't going to dive deep into all the taxonomy and the scientific side of things, yet.
 
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stevenliu9

stevenliu9

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I love my Tusk. Never keep a large reef without having one in it.

The easiest way to tell between Australian and Indo is the black coloration on the face. More black on the orange-red bar #2 and #3 in Indo. Give a darker fish with more menacing look
Australia
HarlequinTusk2016010601cheek.jpg


Indo
HarlequinTuskLA Indo4 1.4 inches2cheek.jpg


The bars of the Australian #5, #6, and #7 are much thinner. This is size dependent. The larger the fish, the thinner these bars are proportionally. The fishes below are about the same size. just about 6 inches +/- .5 inch

Australian
HarlequinTuskLAAustralia6inches1.jpg


Indo
HarlequinTuskLA Indo5.5inches1.jpg

HarlequinTuskLA Indo5.75inches1.jpg


Finally, my Australian Tusk. Much smaller than the ones that from LA pictured above.
HarlequinTusk2016051501.jpg
Interemesting... so basically the Indo ones look more bad-butt?
 
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stevenliu9

stevenliu9

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Back when I was a "young" reefer I had one but had to re-home it. Of course, a very beautiful fish but quite a lot to handle. He did make a breakfast out of my emerald crab and lunch out of my chromis. I'm also so much more cautious now about placing big fish in small ponds. Coming from the freshwater world, I really didn't understand the whole "ocean" thing. The ocean, she big. I have a 125g display and I wouldn't put a big daddy like that in my tank again. I was so much younger then; I'm older than that now.
I want to echo your statement on the Fresh-> Marine transition. That people who are used to keeping freshwater fish may come into the saltwater side of hobby with a different expectation on spacial perspective. That what works with freshwater (a big ol oscar cichlid in a 55G) isn't necessarily going to transfer well into the salt water side of things. It's like grilling on charcoal vs. gas, you might thing they are similar but have indeed very different techniques.
 

jlanger

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It's easy for me to say that the Harlequin Tuskfish is my all-time favorite fish.

Since getting back into the hobby in 2009 after being out for eight years, it took me another ten years before I got another tuskfish. I specifically went into planning my latest reef system to include a tuskfish. I stocked the reef with plenty of Banded Trochus snails before the fish was added. Over the past two years, the snail population has naturally grown as the snails remain inactive during the day. I do occasionally find an empty shell, but I'm guessing that is because a snail has fallen onto the substrate and was eaten prior to righting itself.
This latest tuskfish is the most shy tuskfish that I have ever kept but it is "aggressive" with new tank mates for a couple of weeks. It will chase the new fish periodically but doesn't physically engage them. (I did lose a very small wrasse a while back after a few weeks and the tuskfish is the main suspect. No more small additions!)
I am thinking I may have to rehome the tuskfish if I want to add some emerald crabs to help clean ups a bubble algae problem.
 
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stevenliu9

stevenliu9

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It's easy for me to say that the Harlequin Tuskfish is my all-time favorite fish.

Since getting back into the hobby in 2009 after being out for eight years, it took me another ten years before I got another tuskfish. I specifically went into planning my latest reef system to include a tuskfish. I stocked the reef with plenty of Banded Trochus snails before the fish was added. Over the past two years, the snail population has naturally grown as the snails remain inactive during the day. I do occasionally find an empty shell, but I'm guessing that is because a snail has fallen onto the substrate and was eaten prior to righting itself.
This latest tuskfish is the most shy tuskfish that I have ever kept but it is "aggressive" with new tank mates for a couple of weeks. It will chase the new fish periodically but doesn't physically engage them. (I did lose a very small wrasse a while back after a few weeks and the tuskfish is the main suspect. No more small additions!)
I am thinking I may have to rehome the tuskfish if I want to add some emerald crabs to help clean ups a bubble algae problem.
My tuskfish is also very shy, I wonder if that's just their typical personality?
 

Bizzie

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The Magnificent Mob You Love and Hate: Is Harlequin Tuskfish Right for Your Tank?

Hello Everyone, Steven Here. Thank you for joining me today for another reef chat. If you love reef aquarium and enjoy a good discussion, please help support me by commenting and sharing your experiences in this topic. If you wish to skip reading, please feel free to click the video below to listen to this topic with the fish featured in the video.


Couple Disclaimers:
  1. I am not paid, endorsed, or affiliated with any businesses for creating this content.
  2. I do not claim to be an expert in the area, everything I am sharing is based on my 20+ years experience in this hobby, including retail experience. Please use your own discretion, but also be kind to me and others in this topic.
Let’s dive into our “Is ____ right for your tank” series. Our focus today is the Harlequin Tuskfish. The Harlequin Tuskfish is undoubtedly an eye catcher in any environment, and would be a great discussion topic with any guest for those who are able and willing to house it. It belongs to the wrasse family. One fun fact about the Tuskfish group is that they can “turn” their head, something not many fish can do. This will come into play with their diet, we’ll come back to this topic later.


Look at those tusks!

Let’s discuss the basic care needs for the Harlequin Tuskfish. In the wild, This fish can get close to a foot long and is a very robust, strong swimmer. This translates to need for a tank large enough for the fish to stretch its “legs” and vigorous water movement to help mimic its natural environment. I will not get into the tank size discussion because everyone has different opinion on that. Let’s just say use your best judgement.

As far as its diet, I guess we can cover this topic along with whether or not this fish is “reef safe”. Since “reef safe” is a very ambiguous term, let me just make a quick list of the non-fish creatures you may want to think twice keeping with this creature:
  • Corals– In my experience, they are safe to keep with any and all types of corals.
  • Anemone– At your own risk. As I said they are strong swimmers, but I have seen strong fish get tangled up and eaten by anemones.
  • Crustaceans– At your own risk. In my experience, they will eat any and all crustaceans introduced after it, and devour everything once it grows to mature size.
  • Sea Cucumber– Safe in my experience.
  • Urchins– Safe in my experience, but I have heard of tragedies so at your own risk. Similar rule applies to starfish.
  • Bivalves of any kind (including clams)- No No in my experience.
  • Snails– Also a No No, but I guess depends on size- here is the kicker from their head turning ability. In the wild, they will use the tusks to grip onto the snail shell, twist and “turn” head and body to “unscrew” the snail from rockworks, then swing their head and bang the snail against hard surface to crack the shell and consume it. So if your snailsare small enough for the fish to grip onto, they are fair game. Larger ones may have a better chance to skip its menu, but I can’t guarantee.
  • Other fish- In my experience, a well fed Tuskfish hasn’t shown an appetite to its fish tankmates. But I also try to not keep fish that are “bitesize” alongside any aggressive to semi-aggressive fish. Yes, I’d definitely label Harlequin Tuskfish to be on the aggressive side of the spectrum.
  • Human- Watch for your fingers. Let’s just say I have been snipped and blood shed when sticking my hands in. Always keep an eye on this guy if you are performing tank maintenance. They have the potential to be jerks.

It’s beautiful, but packs a punch sometimes

By now you probably have a good idea on this guy’s diet- they aren’t very picky! literally devours anything you throw in there, even house insects (I’ve thrown flies, beatles and such into the tank and seen my Tuskfish and triggerfish devour them, just extra protein they said).
So are they right for your tank? So let’s count the checkboxes:
  • Do you have a Large enough tank for the fish to grow, and swim freely?
  • Do you have coverage over the tank? They can and will jump!
  • Are you OK with this fish potentially bullying others in the tank, and be a terror to both you and its tankmates?
  • Are you OK with this fish make some rock work rearrangements, and possibly sacrifice some of your clean up crew for its nurishment?
  • Do you like seeing a very entertaining feeding show?
  • Do you LOVE a fish with brilliant coloration, that is RED WHITE and BLUE and super patriotic?
It’s such a strong and shy swimmer that this is the best photo I could get after 20 attempts…

If you answer Yes to all of the above, I’d say give this fish a chance to fall in love with. It truly is a cool fish and I know for as long as I have a tank I’ll always want to have one. They aren’t cheap in today’s market, so please do consider all factors carefully to make sure you can provide this fish, and all other critters in the tank a long and happy life before you commit.

One minor topic- I have seen pictures of Australian and Indonesian versions of this fish. But to be entirely honest with you I cannot tell which one if which if I stumble upon one in the store. Can someone help summarize what is the one thing to look for to tell the difference? also if they have any size/behavior differences based on the region they are collected? Love to hear your comments and experiences with this fish.

Thank you!
 

JoshB94

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My Harlequin is hands down my favorite fish but has eliminated most small CUC in 180 reef. Also watched him destroy my fairy wrasse out of nowhere one day. He's the food bully and has a menacing demeanor but even with that he is still my favorite of about 40 fish in 3 systems (Marine Beta second)
 

atlfishes

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I had one in a reef tank. Played nice with big and small fish introduced before it. New smaller fish became a meal. Didn't mess with corals. Snails would become a meal if overturned, hermits seemed to be fine.
 

vetteguy53081

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Perhaps my all time favorite fish and one i DO trust in a tank with coral
 

jasonrusso

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I love my Tusk. Never keep a large reef without having one in it.

The easiest way to tell between Australian and Indo is the black coloration on the face. More black on the orange-red bar #2 and #3 in Indo. Give a darker fish with more menacing look
Australia
HarlequinTusk2016010601cheek.jpg


Indo
HarlequinTuskLA Indo4 1.4 inches2cheek.jpg


The bars of the Australian #5, #6, and #7 are much thinner. This is size dependent. The larger the fish, the thinner these bars are proportionally. The fishes below are about the same size. just about 6 inches +/- .5 inch

Australian
HarlequinTuskLAAustralia6inches1.jpg


Indo
HarlequinTuskLA Indo5.5inches1.jpg

HarlequinTuskLA Indo5.75inches1.jpg


Finally, my Australian Tusk. Much smaller than the ones that from LA pictured above.
HarlequinTusk2016051501.jpg
I personally think that the Indo/Aussie thing is crap. I think it's just a coloration designation. Basically, if it has nice colors, it's called an Aussie but it could come from Indonesia or Australia, and vice versa.
 

jasonrusso

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My Harlequin is hands down my favorite fish but has eliminated most small CUC in 180 reef. Also watched him destroy my fairy wrasse out of nowhere one day. He's the food bully and has a menacing demeanor but even with that he is still my favorite of about 40 fish in 3 systems (Marine Beta second)
Once a HT gets established, you can't add another wrasse of any kind. Mine never bothered any other fish (foxface, puffer, tang, etc), but went absolutely insane over a 6 line I put in. I put a melanarus wrasse in before and it burried itself. I never saw it again, but now I know what happened.
 

jasonrusso

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Haha no I did not, I think would have added a lot more value and content to this write up have I coordinated with him. Alas this was just a casual chat on my experience with this fish. Wasn't going to dive deep into all the taxonomy and the scientific side of things, yet.
Was just wondering the same thing!! I thought "Didn't I just see this thread?"
 
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