Write-Up Wednesday: Australian Stripey (Microcanthus strigatus)

I love fish that are rare and/or unusual and the Australian Stripey (Microcanthus strigatus) definitely fits into both of these categories. While I consider myself knowledgeable of the fish available for the saltwater aquarium trade, I had never seen, nor heard of an Australian Stripey until a client turned me onto them.

Australian Stripey

Australian Stripey (Microcanthus strigatus)
Image source: http://www.hawaiisfishes.com

Australian Stripeys are an easily recognized fish as they have diagonal black and sometimes yellow stripes over a silver body with a black stripe continuing through the eyeball. The body slants quickly backwards towards its dorsal fin giving the fish a compressed body shape. Maximum reported size is 6” (15cm) and the biggest I’ve ever seen this fish in captivity is 4” (10cm). While they may look like butterfly fish, they are actually a sea chub. Don’t let the name fool you. Australian Stripeys are endemic to not only Australia, but also China, Hawaii, Japan and New Caledonia.

If their looks don’t catch your eye, their personality will. These fish are very fast swimmers and aggressive eaters so much so that they remind me of game fish. They will strike at food in the water column and swarm at feeding time. Due to their speed, I don’t recommend them in any tank under 120 gallons (454 L).

Australian Stripeys also remind me of labrador dogs in that whenever I walk in the room they come flying up to my tank’s glass twitching back and forth as if to welcome me. LiveAquaria lists these fish as not reef safe and I have Australian Stripeys in my reef tank and several client tanks with zero issues. They also do not bother other fish and will school together creating a shimmer of sliver and black in your tank. At night these fish exhibit unique behavior as for the last 30 minutes before my LEDs fade to black, these fish swim slowly over the sand bed likely looking for microfauna such as amphipods to ingest.

I put these fish in the “rare” category as they can be hard to acquire. I was lucky enough to grab 6 stripeys from a wholesaler and often have to wait months to acquire them for clients. If you like the Australian Stripey, ask your local fish store or online retail to request them from their suppliers and be prepared to wait!

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Comments for this article (4)

  • Simon Ksiazek says:

    Hi Mark,

    I love the look of this fish! How many stripeys would you recommend in a 120-140 gallon reef tank? Does this fish do okay on it’s own?

    Simon K.

  • paul says:

    In Sydney Australia these fish are endemic, everywhere – they are the guys who swarm on your bait (prawn-shrimp) and demolish it in 20 seconds when you are out in the estuaries trying for decent bream. Having said that they do look great shimmering in the sun and darting about. Go the good old ozzy stripey! After all these years (i had some in a tank when I was a boy) they might be hitting super star status!. Thanks Mark!

  • Simon…get 3 for a tank that size. They are very good schoolers and just having one wouldn’t do the fish justice.

  • Paul…not a problem mate!

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