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Bring on the Clowns: Blennies of the genus Ecsenius
Part 1: Introduction

Articles and photos © Scott W. Michael

The Blenny family is large and diverse. While some are useful in the home aquarium for helping control microalgae growth and exhibit interesting behaviors, many of these small, bottom-dwelling fishes are not blessed with spectacular colors. But, there some members of the family that exhibit very pleasing chromatic characteristics. One such group is the genus Ecsenius. This genus, whose members are collectively referred to as Clown Blennies, is the largest in the family.

While several members of the genus are “regulars” in local aquarium stores, the genus is greatly underutilized by home aquarists. While I feel they are typically amazing aquarium inhabitants, there are a few caveats to keeping Ecsenius blennies. For example, there are several species that have been known to nip at stony coral polyps. They are also not as effective at algae control as some other members of the family (e.g., Salarias spp.). That said, the overall grade as a reef-friendly aquarium inhabitant is high! In this 3-part article series, we will look at the biology and aquarium care requirements of the Clown Blennies.

But before I go any further, a quick word about the common name. I chose to use the vernacular name Clown Blenny for the genus because of their comical demeanors and the bright colors many species sport. The name Combtooth Blenny has also been used for the group specifically, but is more regularly applied to the entire subfamily Salariinae. All the members of this subfamily have a blunt head profile with a wide mouth equipped with comb-like teeth.

As aquarists become more aware of these fishes and their popularity increases, I hope we will see more species of Ecsenius showing up in the aquarium trade. There are certainly many very attractive members of the group that I believe would become very popular if they were available.

Part 1:
| Part 2:
The Natural History of Clown Blennies
| Part 3:
Keeping Clown Blennies in the Home Aquarium

Scott Michael

Scott Michael
Scott W. Michael is an internationally-recognized writer, underwater photographer, and marine biology researcher specializing in reef fishes, and was the Banquet Speaker at our 2007 and 2008 Coral Conference and Frag Swap. He is a regular contributor to Aquarium Fish Magazine, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine, SeaScope, and is the author of Reef Fishes Vol 1, Vol 2, and Vol 3, Vol 4, and Vol 5., A Pocket Expert Guide Marine Fishes, A Pocket Expert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes, 101 Best Saltwater Fishes: How to Choose and Keep Hardy, Brilliant, Fascinating Species That Will Thrive in Your Home Aquarium, Reef Sharks & Rays of the World, and Aquarium Sharks & Rays. Having studied marine biology at the University of Nebraska, Scott has served as a scientific consultant for National Geographic Explorer, the Discovery Channel, and French educational television.


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