The Two Oceans Aquarium has a newcomer, a pineapplefish (Monocentris japonica)! The pineapplefish, or pinecone fish as it is also known, is an unusual visitor here in the Cape as it naturally prefers the warm waters, like the Red Sea, the Indo-Pacific and the water around Mauritius, but it is also found as far south as Mossel Bay. We aren’t complaining – we love our fruity newcomer.
One of the things that makes the Aquarium special is that almost all of our creatures are collected from the wild along the South African coast by our dedicated collections team, instead of being bought. This is why our exhibits are so dynamic – we are always ready to add newcomers, and new and exciting specimens are regularly welcomed.
While on a routine collections dive near Long Beach, Simon’s Town, Senior Aquarist Paul van Nimwegen spotted the lone pineapplefish. The pineapplefish is not one typically collected by the Aquarium (for obvious reasons), but Paul knew that this fish needs warmer waters to survive and was out of place in the cold waters of False Bay. With winter approaching, and water temperatures bound to drop further, this little fish had a little chance of survival in the wild.
Thus, the pineapplefish was brought to the Aquarium, where water temperatures could be regulated to keep the fish comfortable. After spending a few days in quarantine, where its health was closely monitored, the pineapplefish now has its very own display and can be viewed by the public. Since this rescue a couple of weeks ago, Paul has revisited the site and a second pineapplefish was found that is now being monitored in our quarantine area.
Life of a pineapplefish
Unlike pineapples (which spend most of their time in trees), pineapplefish are sublittoral, which means they enjoy life in coral reefs, under ledges and behind rocks along the coast. They are also nocturnal, only coming out of their hiding places at night to hunt. Pineapplefish are usually solitary animals, but do sometimes form small schools, especially when hunting.
This small fish has some nifty secret weapons. At the tip of its jaw are two sacks that are filled with bioluminescent bacteria that give off a blue-green light, attracting prey and helping the pineapplefish to see at night. What is even more amazing is that the pineapplefish is able to control these bacteria, turning the light orange during the day to aid camouflage, or even turning the light off completely. Here in the Aquarium, the pineapplefish uses these skills to hunt the mysid shrimp that we feed it.
The pineapplefish is also armoured, with thick spiked plates called scutes which resemble (you guessed it) pineapples! Its fins are also equipped with spines, and it is able to lock some of these in position when threatened to give a nasty surprise to any fish trying to strike it from behind.
Come visit the fruitiest fish in the Aquarium, and Nature's other weird and wonderful creatures in our Indian Ocean Gallery.
Update (4 May 2017): Our pineapplefish's fruity friend is now out of quarantine and they are in their exhibit together.