How to spot a Harlequin Sweetlips
When wanting to find a Harlequin Sweetlips you must be in tropical waters. Places rich in coral, lagoons and reefs are the perfect areas for the fish to be and it is there you are most likely to find them. They tend to live mostly independently and tucked away in between cracks in rocks and caves at depths of up to 30 metres as they grow older. Adults are solitary, and can often be found near and under ledges or caves by day. They tend to swim away if you approach them, but by staying calm and still for a while they will become used to you and you can then approach them slowly for a closer look at their beautiful spots.
Harlequin sweetlips can grow as long as 70cm and their spots develop throughout their life. When they’re youngsters, their bodies are brown with large, white blotchy spots. The white blotches are circled in black. In adulthood, they turn completely white and develop smaller brownish spots that gradually multiply over time.
When still a tiny little juvenile this fish just can’t stop dancing and these movements have earned it the nick-name of disco fish. The reason for this behavior is to avoid predators from eating them. When wiggling their tail in this frantic way they are instead mistaken for being toxic flatworms and their lives are then spared.
I personally find these little species as very cute during their early days in the sea. Many other people tend to love them as well for their cute wiggly dance and this is why so many of them end up in aquariums. As so often happens however, thoughtless aquarium owners don’t do sufficient research about these amazing creatures to realize that they grow significantly from cute babies into rather large adults. As a consequence they often end up in tanks far too small for them. Note – in this author’s opinion, any tank of any size being far too small for any marine creature bearing in mind an enclosed tank is not their natural habitat.
The fleshy lips that these fishes have been provided with are thought by some to be a tasty delicacy which also has come to give the Harlequin Sweetlips its name. Fishing up these creatures from the sea to eat their lips is of course outrageous and unacceptable behaviour. Their relative, the Napoleon Wrasse has been fished to near-extinction due to the very same reason and it is about time that the destructive species known as Homo Sapien, stops treating the ocean and its inhabitants in such a shockingly destructive fashion. It’s suffice to say that if we wish to continue seeing these beautiful creatures in our tropical waters, ignorant practices such as this must cease.