Scientific name: Siganus
Size: 30cm in adult size
Life Span: 5 years
Reef Compatible: With Caution
Aquarium Size: 250L +
- Yellow Foxface – Siganus vulpinu
- Brown-yellow foxface – Siganus uspae
- One spot foxface- Siganus unimaculatus
- Magnifisant foxface – Siganus magnificu
- Yellow spot rabbit – Siganus guttatus
- Blue-spotted spinefoot – Siganus corallinus.jpg
One day long, long ago, when I was still a tropical fish breeder I decided to convert one of my large aquariums (1200 liter) into a marine aquarium. This was the beginning of the end . Stocking this aquarium 15 years ago was a nightmare in Pretoria, as only one retailer / Pet Shop sold marines and they did not get new stock in regularly. I always did a lot of research on any live stock I added to this aquarium, so when the algae cycle started I knew what I needed. I needed a Tang/surgeon to clean it up. But at that time no tangs was available so after a few weeks, I was told by the shop owner that they have a fish in stock that might help till I get a tang, but I needed to remove him ASAP after I introduced the tang as this fish will eat my corals. So I bought it and introduced it into my aquarium.
Months went by and at last I got the Tang I was looking for!! Now I must remove this coral eating algae eater before the corals could come in. Big mistake, catching a fish in 1200 liter stacked with 500 kilograms of live rock?!?! Never happened, so then some serious research was done, is this fish really so bad, what can be kept with him, etc.
It came to light that it was a yellow Fox face and all the books contradicted each other. So been a scientist at hart, I started to experiment with this fox face, feeding him different foods at different intervals and amounts. Resulting in him NEVER feeding on the corals, even when he did not get sufficient food. He ate all the food I introduces, especially plant material.
So what is this a Fox face or rabbit? This group of fish is one of the most under rated and underappreciated algae eater in the Marine hobby! Rabbits are from the family Siganidae consist of about 30 species of which 5 species (siganus sp.) are regularly available and are closely related to Surgeons/Tangs. But rabbits lack the “scalpel” found in Tangs. Why rabbit? Look at their mouths, which are pronounced hare-like upper lip gives it all away.
Rabbits are grossly under rated because there are lots of rumors going around that they eat coral and shrimps, thus making them not reef safe. These rumors do have some grounds, when you want to keep certain species of Rabbits or your feeding schedule are not up to scratch, but it does not include all the species. Yellow foxface, one spot foxface, Magnifisant foxfase, blue-spotted spinefoot, Decorated spinefoot & Double barred spinefoot are all reef safe.
This said, you must always remember that fish cannot read nor do they have the internet, so there are always exceptions to the rules! An definite exception was in one of my display aquariums, this yellow tail spot fox face (Siganus chrysospilos) would refuse any food and only eat the Xenia corals for a few days and then go back to the normal food and totally ignore the Xenia corals. The Xenia corals would recuperate and start growing healthy again, till one morning when it all starts all over again. But this is the exception not the rule.
Back to their algae eating habit. The fact that they will eat most types of algae, especially hair algae! Even ignoring frozen foods and rather eating these algae, combined with their friendly disposition, make them a very good choice. Fox faces / rabbits love their green foods, they will eat all the prepared frozen and dry food you introduce plus all the algae available in the aquarium. They relish spinnate forms of caulerpa, Spiralina and all the different types of nori (sea weed). As they constantly graze on algae in nature you can expect them to do the same in your aquarium.
Where Tangs would act aggressively towards other tangs and even to some of the newly introduced other species into their aquarium. Rabbit are totally the opposite, they might have a quibble with their own, but they will ignore other species to the point that it even look like they do not even see them.
Rabbits like Tangs need to defend themselves. Tangs have their well known scalpel, Rabbits on the other hand do not have this handy device. Rabbits took a page out of the lion fishes book and developed poison glands in the rays of the dorsal fin. Then they went further and decided to do the same with their anal and ventral rays, all packing a punch, a poisonous punch. So every time you need to handle them, please be careful. In extreme cases you would need medical assistance for the pain and swelling.
Sexing rabbits / foxface are not visually possible, but luckily you do not have to keep a pair. By introducing them together normally eliminate squabbles, with the exception of aquariums that are to small.
Another intresting fact on rabbits/foxfaces is their “pajamas”. (back to my own 1200 liter tank) The fish was introduced and as expected went into hiding immediately. After a few hour he appeared again in his full yellow glory and immediately started grazing on the algae. Later that night I got a big fright, the beautiful fish was “grey, black and brown”. He is dying!!! Before I could get the pet shops phone number he was OK! What the….?!?! Later that night I went back to the aquarium with a flash light, again he is dying! After some frantic calls and explanations I gave a great big sigh of relieve, that is only his “pajamas” and he display it when he is stressed or asleep.
What are the best species? Half of the choice is your personal taste, the other half is the size of your aquarium. I found that in general Siganus vulpinus – yellow foxface and Siganus unimaculatus – One spot foxface are the best sellers but I personaly like Siganus varigatus – Double barred spinefoot, Siganus lineatus – golden-lined spinefoot and Siganus corallinus – blue-spotted spinefoot to be more beautiful. But then there are Siganus magnificus – Magnifisant foxface that are realy magnifisant! So the joy and choice is all yours!