Cast your eyes upon the Lyretail Anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) shown here in one of its many color varieties. I have this fish on order and will soon be adding it to my aquarium. Striking, isn’t it?
Like most Anthias, the Lyretail forms large schools that can number more than 2000 individuals. These schools are organized in a strict hierarchy with a relatively small number of territorial males at the top and non-territorial, low-ranking males and females filling out the bulk of the school. Anthias are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means that females can change into males. Territorial males will do their best to bully and harass females to prevent them from changing into males. Once they change into males, the former females will try to climb their way up the pecking order. For males who make it to the top, the reward is territory and a harem of females to chase around that territory. Within the females of a harem exists another hierarchy with the larger females usually dominating the smaller ones. If the ruling male dies, the dominant female will change sex (over about two weeks time) and take over the territory and the harem. This social structure is far from egalitarian and is all about who can kick the most fin. Thus, I am only getting one fish. I don’t want to put up with the squabbling. Aquarists who try to maintain groups of these fish usually keep one male along with a harem of around eight females. This way the male’s attentions are divided up among the females so that no one female gets all of the grief. This usually works if you have a tank large enough to keep such a school and as long as none of the females try to turn male while the dominant male is still around. If that should happen, watch out.