January 30, 2014 PetGuide
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Moorish Idol

  • Group: Saltwater
  • Size: Medium
  • Temperament: Non-aggressive
  • Aquarium Size: Very large (200 gal)
  • Swimming Region(s): All
  • Suitable Tank Mates: Small Angelfish, Wrasse, Anthias, Basslets, and Chromis
  • Difficulty Of Care: Weekly care

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The Moorish idol is a species of marine fish closely related to surgeonfish. They are characterized by their vertically compressed, disk-like bodies and bold colorations. Moorish idols are highly prized for their beauty but are also one of the most difficult species to keep in the aquarium. In fact, without proper care, most specimens do not live for more than a week or two in captivity. They are avoided by most aquarists for this reason and should only be kept by highly experienced hobbyists.

Moorish idols are a species of marine fish closely related to surgeonfish.

Moorish idols are one of the most widespread species of fish and are found in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean.

The Moorish idol’s body is covered in contrasting bands of black, white and yellow.

Saltwater Moorish idolOne of the most challenging aspects of raising Moorish idols in the aquarium is their difficult feeding habits. Most adult specimens do not adjust well to life in captivity and can often ignore the foods offered. In fact, it is not uncommon for most wild-caught specimens to die of starvation after being introduced to the aquarium. Live rock with large amounts of coralline algae and sponge growth are often required to stimulate the Moorish idol’s appetite in the home aquarium. However, they are not reef suitable and will often pick at LPS corals and other soft coral polyps. They also prey on sessile invertebrates and small crustaceans.

Moorish idols are a relatively peaceful species and can be housed with most other peaceful species of fish. Although certain aquarists recommend raising Moorish idols as solitary specimens, they are best kept in mated pairs or groups of 4-6. They are however a fairly large and active species and should be provided with adequate tank space, especially when kept in large groups.

When purchasing Moorish idols it is important to look for healthy, active specimens with no visible signs of damage. It is also advisable to observe their feeding habits in the aquarium to ensure that they have adapted to feeding in captivity. Due to the short transport distances, specimens caught in Hawaii and Mexico are often recommended over specimens caught in other areas.

One of the most challenging aspects of raising Moorish idols in the aquarium is their difficult feeding habits.

Moorish idols that have adapted to feeding in captivity can be fed on a meaty diet of chopped mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, clam and squid.

It is virtually impossible to breed Moorish idols in captivity.

Photo credit: divemecressi/Flickr; judy h/Flickr

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  • Group: Saltwater
  • Size: Large
  • Temperament: Community
  • Aquarium Size: Very Large
  • Swimming Region(s): Bottom, Mid-Range
  • Suitable Tank Mates: Rabbitfish, Tangs, Clownfish, Boxfish, Anthias, Angelfish
  • Difficulty Of Care: Weekly
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  • Group: Saltwater
  • Size: Small
  • Temperament: Community
  • Aquarium Size: Small, Medium
  • Swimming Region(s): Mid-Range
  • Suitable Tank Mates: Other Small, Non-Aggressive Reef Species; Should Not be Kept with Conspecifics
  • Difficulty Of Care: Weekly