7 Lyretail Anthias Facts: They Change Gender to Own a Harem

The lyretail anthias is one of the most popular fish kept in tanks. They are colorful, peaceful, and hardy. One of the most interesting features of these species is that they can change gender and have a harem for themselves. Let’s have a look at mind-blowing anthias fish facts.

Lyretail anthias (Sea goldie)
Scientific name: Pseudanthias squamipinnis
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Genus: Pseudanthias

1. Lyretail anthias appearance

Sea goldies belong to the cod family (Seranidae). This species is also called different names like lyretail anthias, lyretail coralfish, orange basslet, scalefin anthias, red coral perch, orange seaperch, and jewel fairy basslet.

They are colorful fish with significant sexual dimorphism. Lyretail anthias females are smaller with a size of about 7 cm in length when fully mature. They come in golden coloring and a purple-pink stripe around the eye. This stripe becomes purple-orange towards their pelvic fins.

Males vs female

On the other hand, lyretail anthias males are bigger and can reach the size of 15 cm. While females maintain their colors regardless of where they are seen, males have different colors and markings based on where you see them.

Indian Ocean lyretail anthias possess a reddish hue with a white-yellow patch on their bodies. There is a darker red line runs across their eyes and a red blotch on their pectoral fin. The Kenya has an orange-yellow body with an orange mark on the pectoral fin.

Kenya lyretail anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) vs Fiji lyretail anthias (Pseudanthias cheirospilos)/Cre: Charm

The only thing unchanged is their extended dorsal spine which is a feature to recognize the male.

These fish have a tight relationship with Pseudanthias cheirospilos. Due to their similar looks, the sea goldies are often mistaken for the P. cheirospilos. Although their common name is cheirospilos anthias, these species are usually called lyretail anthias, such as the Indonesia or Fiji lyretail anthias.

2. Natural habitat

Lyretail anthias live throughout the Indo-Pacific Ocean, from the Red Sea to South Africa, Natal to Japan, and southeast Australia. They are also found in great numbers near Melanesia, Indonesia, and Fiji.

These fish locate at depths ranging from 30 to 100 feet (10-30m). In the ocean, they reside underwater among coral reefs and rock crevices.

The sea goldie schools keep active above the reef while staying close to the branching corals. In this way, they can hide immediately when there is a dangerous predator intrude their region.

3. They live in a harem

Lyretail anthias live in groups (schools) on coral outcrops. Like mandrills, male sea goldies are fiercely territorial and have a harem. Each sea goldie male lives in a harem of 5 to 10 females. The bigger the male is, the more females he can have.

Seldomly, schools have been observed to have just males or a majority of males. And the reason for these schools is still unknown.

The male will roam its territory, keeping an eye on his preferred females in his harem. Even though sea goldie fish are peaceful fish, males will compete for females and territory. Lyretails will also fight other anthias species, particularly if they appear similar.

A harem of lyretail anthias, including one male and 5 females
The male is surrounded by 5 females

Sea goldies can be peaceful and aggressive at the same time. In aquariums, these fish can easily get along with their new tank mates. However, they may also fight with them to establish order.

If food is scared or if the fish are housed in overcrowded settings, they are more likely to turn hostile toward smaller fish.

In these cases, smaller fish can get damaged by the larger one’s teeth.

4. Sea goldies are carnivores

Lyretail anthias are very active. They swim around their surroundings constantly, burning a lot of energy along the way. This is owing to their fast metabolism, which causes them to look for food almost continuously during the day.

The Indian Ocean/Cre: Credit: Rico Besserdich & unknown

These fish are carnivores. Their main diet includes zooplankton and copepods. The majority of sea goldie food is from reefs and living rocks.

In captivity, they can be fed brine shrimp, amphipods, copepods, rotifers, and Mysis shrimp. You should feed them correctly prepared meals in modest amounts several times every day. Feeding them 2 – 3 times per day is not enough. This will make them lose weight and become distressed.



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5. They can change their gender

Sea goldies are protogynous hermaphrodite species, meaning all fish are born females. The group of these females will operate on a hierarchical structure. The strongest and most dominating one will rise to the top and transform into a male. The gender transition might occur in as little as a few weeks.

The dominant male will restrain other females and prevent them from switching sexes. This causes social stress and breeding competition inside a school.

South African sea goldie male has a purple-pink blotch in the pectoral fin.

As a result, in most fish societies, there is only one male sea goldie. If the existing male dies or quits the group for whatever reason, another pseudanthias squamipinnis female will quickly replace him.

When the female begins changing to male, her body color will shift from orange-yellow to reddish. Her dorsal fins will grow considerably more elegant.

You may read some of the other articles about Gender-bending in fish below:

6. Reproduction

Over time, lyretail anthias females release fewer eggs, whereas males generate more milt. This means the females decrease their fertility rates over the years, while the males improve it.

The breeding of these species is focused on harems. Each male needs to be surrounded by multiple females, ideally at least 5.

The male does a mating ritual to catch the attention of the anthias squamipinnis female. He then pursues her to the surface, where they both deliver their sperm and eggs.

The eggs stay in the current between 20 hours and 3 days. After hatching, the larvae can eat by themselves. The juveniles are commonly found quite close inshore in KwaZulu-Natal waters, mostly in big rock pools on the coastline.

In captivity, sea goldies’ lifespan is about 5-6 years if provided with appropriate food and care.

7. They’re usually kept as pets

Sea goldies are among the most popular fish to keep as pets in an aquarium! They are friendly, lively, and pretty. Depending on the sizes, genders, and colors, lyretail anthias price will range from $50 – $100.

If you want to have a sea goldie anthias in an aquarium, the tank size should be at least 125 gal (568.3 L). Because they’re reef safe, you can give them coral reefs and hiding areas.

Anthias squamipinnis live in groups. So you shouldn’t keep them alone. A male should be housed with a group of numerous females. They should be provided with a varied diet. You can see the sea goldie care guides here.


  • Lyretail Anthias Care: Pseudanthias squamipinnis – https://www.saltwateraquariumblog.com/lyretail-anthias/
  • Fun Lyretail Facts For Kids – https://kidadl.com/facts/animals/lyretail-facts
  • Lyretail Anthias – Breed Profile & Facts – https://smartaquariumguide.com/lyretail-anthias/

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4 thoughts on “7 Lyretail Anthias Facts: They Change Gender to Own a Harem”

  1. Hi, your article is very helpful. The fish is so interesting that I want to have one. But I already have a tank with fish at home. So are lyretail anthias fish compatible with other anthias species? Hope you can help me with this.

    • Hi, Yoko. Lyretail anthias fish can coexist with some other species of anthias, but compatibility varies. It’s important to consider factors such as your tank size, gender ratios, and aggression levels of the different species. Some common anthias species that may be compatible include Square Anthias (Pseudanthias pleurotaenia) and Dispar Anthias (Pseudanthias dispar). Hope this can help you 😀

  2. I already have a Lyretail Anthias, I think I’m gonna have some more of them. It’s gonna be fun to watch a male with its whole harem

  3. I was about to keep 2 male Lyretail Anthias in the same tank. Thank God I didn’t do that. They could become aggressive and attack one another. Thanks to your article, I know that it’s the best to kept in a small harem group consisting of one dominant male with multiple females.


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