The Ballad of the Flame Hawkfish

The genesis of this blog was at the Baltimore Aquarium last Sunday — a place full of many cool and exquisite sharks, poison dart frogs, and stingrays (RIP Steve Irwin.) I came in expecting to see it all, but what I did not expect to see….was this.

The Flame Hawkfish

The Flame Hawkfish. Maybe the animal with the most savage name not only to roam the Seven Seas (largely Pacific) but maybe the entire globe. What is it? Who named it? Why does it sound like an CFL team name? What is the mystery behind this absolute smooth criminal of fish? We explore those answers and more in the depths of this blog.

First I will start you all off with an equation.

Plus

Plus

Equals

??? How did we get here? Clearly it has the attributes of a fish, and the colors of a flame, but where does it pay homage to the mighty hawk? Is it, perhaps, within its vicious nature? Its propensity to hunt for small critters while soaring above the open reefs? Or could it be something more sinister? Through the depths of research I aim to present you with my findings.

Part 1: Diet. What animal or anemone could fuel this specimen of natural perfection? The answer is quite simple — fishbase.se informs us that the Flame Hawkfish is a fan of small crustaceans. For the uninitiated, we’re talking shrimp. Lobsters and crabs are also crustaceans but they are much larger than the Flame Hawkfish and would likely win in a fight, much less be eaten. Also these bad boys are known for Pacific Reefs and as far as I know lobster is a more east coast kind of animal. I will not research this point further to save time and energy.

Moreover, because these bad boys are only about 9cm long, they can probably only eat small shrimp. Overeating is a big obstacle in our modern world but the Flame Hawkfish (may be hereby referred to as the FHF) casually puts the swim move on these trivial problems and sticks to reasonable portion sizes.

Does it surprise you that the primary diet of the FHF is also one of the most potentially classy appetizers on the planet, shared by titans of industry and politics? It shouldn’t.

Part 2: Habits. “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” — Aristotle. As the great ancient philosophers discovered long ago, good habits are the building blocks of greatness. Bad habits can also drag a person, or animal, into the metaphorical abyss. How does the Flame Hawkfish utilize its habits to live life to the fullest?

To further divine an answer to this question, I visited reefbum.com, a depository of testimonials regarding aquarium fish, to find the most intense observation possible. After all, who could know better the habits of an FHF than someone who looks at one in their 3x4 foot fish tank 7 days a week?

According to one author, their FHF, named Burt, is a staple in their tank. Based on observations of Burt, we are able to surmise that Flame Hawkfish are “not great swimmers” and “they do look goofy” because their eyes move independently of one another. Sounds like efficiency to me. As a result of their awkwardness swimming, they prefer to chill around corals and vibe out until it’s time to move. Much as a hawk will glide peacefully above a field or open space looking for prey, the FHF will conserve energy up on high in the coral waiting for an unsuspecting crustacean to make its unlucky way across the ocean floor below. They “are predators,” says the author, and “may also hassle hermit crabs or snails so be on the lookout for that behavior.” While presented in a slightly negative light, it sounds like Flame Hawkfish are the enforcers of any good fish tank and/or reef.

Waiting to Strike

Part 3: The Science. We’ve given you diet and lifestyle, but we have yet to truly crunch the numbers and get to the nitty gritty details. That is the purpose of this section. Known in Latin as the Neocirrhites Armatus Castelnau, they can be found in Ryukyu Islands, the Line Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Austral Islands, Mariana(presumably trench) and the Wake Islands. We’re talking between 30 degrees North and 28 degrees South. That’s a lot of islands and a decidedly tropical lifestyle. While you waste away in your city apartment, the Flame Hawkfish spends its days between 1 and 10 meters below the sunny ocean surface, soaking rays and enjoying the moment.

Castelnau, French Naturalist who’s name is tacked on the end of the FHF in Latin. Good looking guy.

They are in the ray-finned fish category of fish, in the subsection of bass, in the family of Hawkfishes. Yes, there are other hawkfish, such as the Dwarf Hawkfish, the Spotted Hawkfish, and possibly the Tony Hawkfish. Science has not yet confirmed #3, but it’s a valid speculation. FHF are also monogamous. They do not play around on their women. They represent a standard of integrity and commitment that we could all stand to learn from in our short-term, instant gratification society. Finally, they are pelagic spawners. I have no idea what that means.

Hopefully, this article has helped bring to light the magical and sublime existence of these beautiful sea creatures. Not to mention their absolutely dope name. Imagine, if instead of humans, the name for our species was the “Lightning Eagle-Man (or woman)” The truth is, we don’t deserve the honor, but they do. The next time you find yourself hanging out in coral in some tropical reef like pre-journey Nemo, bring some shrimp and appreciate the natural beauty of the Flame Hawkfish.