Lyretail Anthias Care – A Complete Guide

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If you’re like me, then one of your favorite things to do is sit back and watch your reef tank filled with beautiful fish swimming around. Among the many different types of fishes that can be kept in a reef tank, lyretail anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) are perhaps some of the most colorful and striking. Lyretail anthias require a fair bit of care, but if you’re up for it they are definitely worth keeping! In this article I’ll provide a complete guide on how to take care of lyretail anthias so that you can enjoy them in your reef tank for years to come.

Species Overview

Scientific NamePseudanthias squamipinnis
Common NamesLyretail anthias, scalefin anthias, sea goldie, lyretail fairy basslet, orange seaperch
OriginIndo Pacific Ocean (Indo-West Pacific Ocean)
ColorsOrange, purple, yellow, red
Care LevelIntermediate
Minimum Tank Size125 gallons
Max Size5 inches
Temperature Range76 – 82 degrees F
pH Range8.0 – 8.4
Salinity1.025 or 35 PPT
Reef SafeYes
Available As Tank BredUncommon

Origins And Habitat

Lyretail Anthias Male in Reef Tank

The lyretail anthias goes by many names but is pretty easy to identify.

Contrary to popular belief, these fish are not true anthias species belonging to the Anthias genus. Instead, they belong to the Pseudanthias genus. As a fish species of Pseudanthias, these medium-sized fish have very bright colors that bring great contrast to the aquarium setting.

Lyretail anthias are native to the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. They can be found throughout the Red Sea as well as off the coasts of Japan, Australia, and South Africa. There, these fish form huge harems in clear tropical waters consisting of one male and up to 10 females1. They depend on coral reefs for protection and food, mainly zooplankton.

Though these peaceful fish can be found throughout many ecosystems, there is little physical difference between populations.

Hermaphroditism And Sexual Dimorphism

Lyretail anthias demonstrate protogynous hermaphroditism, much like clownfish. This is the evolutionary ability for the fish to change from female to male depending on internal and external environmental factors.

Protogynous hermaphroditism is to increase reproduction rates and is especially successful in harem communities. Lyretails like to stay in large aggregations of about 10 females for every one male. When this male leaves or dies, a female will undergo the transition to male to fill this space and to optimize reproduction rates.

On top of this, lyretails display sexual dimorphism. Simply put, this is when male and female individuals of the same species differ in appearance. For the lyretail anthias, this difference is pretty huge.

Male lyretail anthias grow considerably larger than females, maxing out at about 6 inches while females typically stay under 3 inches. The bigger difference is in color.

Female lyretail anthias are sherbet-colored with a yellowy-pink body and bright yellow underbelly; sometimes these fish may be more yellow than pink. The eyes have hints of purple which are further accented by the purple streak that runs along their cheeks.

Male lyretail anthias are much more ornate. These fish are dark purplish-red with contrasting red fins; like females, they have a bright red streak that runs along their cheeks. They also have an identifiable elongated dorsal spine and some extension to the rest of their fins.

In the case of a missing male, females have the ability to transition into a male in under a month. If a female harem has been established without a male, the most dominant female will make the transition in about 170-280 days.

Lyretail Anthias Tank Requirements

Though beautiful fish, lyretails aren’t the easiest fish to keep in the aquarium. This is largely due to their spatial and dietary needs. Still, the lyretail anthias is considered to be one of the easiest fake anthias to keep.

Lyretails live above the reef and need open swimming space. In the tank setting, hobbyists also need additional space to comfortably keep large numbers of these peaceful fish together. Because of this, they need at least a 125 gallon aquarium.

Though these fish will look their best against a natural backdrop of coral, this isn’t always necessary. One of the important factors to remember when keeping these fish is that they are active zooplankton feeders, constantly searching for floating foods.

A reef aquarium setting will naturally help to maintain these populations of microorganisms so that they don’t need to be manually supplemented as often.

Are They Hardy?

Though lyretails aren’t necessarily sensitive to water parameters, they will do best when conditions are maintained and stable. These fish will show their brightest colors with minimal nitrates and phosphates in a reef tank setting.

Lyretail anthias are generally hardy, though they should only be kept in matured and established systems.


Lyretail anthias are active fish. They will usually stay at the top of or in front of the live rock, swimming loosely in their harem (video source).

In general, these fish keep to themselves if conditions are met. Male lyretail anthias can become territorial at times, though they won’t inflict injury on another fish.

It is also common to see females picking at each other, especially if there is no male present in the tank. At that point, the biggest and brightest females may work out which one will assume the position of male in the group.

Are They Aggressive?

That being said, the lyretail anthias is regarded as one of the more aggressive species within the Pseudanthias genus. They are slightly sensitive to imperfections in saltwater tank conditions and parameters, which can affect their individual behaviors.

As mentioned before, lyretails are constantly searching for food. If food supplies run low, then these fish have been known to become pretty aggressive towards other fish who might pose as competition. This is especially true for smaller and slower-moving species.

In the same ways, lyretails can become aggressive if space is limited. Though the males are mostly regarded as being territorial, it’s possible that the females will chase after other fish if they feel they don’t have enough space.

Are They Reef-Safe?

Yes – Lyretail anthias are one of the best fish to have in a reef tank setting. These fish are close to being completely reef-safe and won’t bother munching on any sessile invertebrates within the tank display.

Lyretails are only concerned with food that is free-floating in the water column and won’t pick at the rocks like other foragers. These fish can be safely kept with soft corals, large polyp stony (LPS) corals, and small polyp stony (SPS) corals without any worry.

Though there is usually no risk with keeping lyretail anthias in a reef setup, it’s always possible for a fish to start picking at coral for no reason.


Not only are lyretail anthias reef-safe, but they’re also a great community fish all around. As mentioned before, space and dietary strains can cause individual fish to become more aggressive, but they can usually be kept with an assortment of fish.

Lyretail anthias are best kept with other reef species. This includes damselfish, tangs, wrasses, and some angelfish.

To help prevent issues with aggression, it’s recommended to allow lyretails their own space within the aquarium. For example, these fish will mainly stay at the top of or in front of the rockwork. Other smaller fish that like to stay in the same areas for extended periods of time should be avoided.

For the most part, though, there is enough space for everyone to get along as long as the tank size is right.

How Many Can Be Kept Together?

It’s generally agreed that lyretail anthias will do well in groups of at least 4 or more in the home aquarium. It is preferred to keep more, though this pushes the tank size needed.

Lyretail anthias are social fish that like to be in small groups. In the wild, they can be seen in larger groups with one male surrounded by several females. In the aquarium, it isn’t too necessary to keep so many of them together.

Most hobbyists pick up a group of all-female lyretail anthias and allow them to pick a male among themselves; it is best to either pick all small juvenile females or a group of females where one is noticeably larger. Immediately adding a male to the tank can cause rejection and even more aggression between individuals.

Though these fish are a shoaling species, they actually do just fine on their own in the aquarium. Many reefers have had luck keeping only one lyretail anthias by itself in a full reef tank setting. There have been no noticeable differences in behavior and the fish remains present and active.

Most times, this fish will transition to a male lyretail anthias when alone.

Can They Be Kept With Other Anthias Species?

Depending on tank size, you will be able to keep multiple species of anthias fish together. The trick to getting these combinations to work is by choosing species that aren’t too similar in appearance or behavior. Similar to other species, lyretails will become aggressive to similar-looking fish that aren’t in their harem.

There are many different kinds of anthias in the aquarium, both true ones and fake ones. The problem is that one is more beautiful than the next, making it difficult to pick and choose which one you want to have in your aquarium.

Instead, pick species that can tell each other apart, like:

  • Bartlett’s anthias (Pseudanthias bartlettorum)
  • Dispar anthias/Madder seaperch (Pseudanthias dispar)
  • Bicolor anthias (Pseudanthias bicolor)
  • Evansi anthias (Pseudanthias evansi)

Still, some hobbyists have seen aggression between males of each species, though there is usually no cause for concern. If keeping multiple species of anthias together, the tank should be much larger than the minimum tank size recommended of 125 gallons.


The hardest part of owning lyretail anthias will be keeping them fed. These are very active fish with high metabolisms, so they need to be fed regularly. This is also in addition to their need for small planktonic foods, similar to their natural diet in the wild.

Luckily, most hobbyists have had success getting their lyretails to accept a wide variety of aquarium foods. For best coloration, you’ll want to provide a varied diet.

Lyretail anthias are largely carnivores. This means that they need a good assortment of meaty foods to meet their dietary demands. This should include a selection of live, frozen, and freeze-dried options, like brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, and black worms.

If you’re struggling with getting your fish to eat larger foods, then you may want to try feeding copepods or a specialized food, like Reef Frenzy by Larry’s Reef Services (LRS).

Not all lyretails will readily accept flake or pellet food at first, and might not ever accept anything other than their preferred foods. However, if you’re lucky enough that your lyretail anthias do accept other foods, then high-quality flake foods can be the staple of the diet.

To ensure that your fish are always happy and healthy, it’s recommended to provide feedings 2-3 times a day. They are known for eating throughout the day. They will do better in a reef aquarium with lots of fauna in the tank such as copepods and zooplankton. You can supplement plankton with foods like Benereef. This food contains planktivore content that are loved by Lyretail Anthias.

Common Diseases

Though lyretails are hardy fish, they can succumb to common aquarium illnesses rather quickly. For whatever reason, most anthias available in store are usually affected by one ailment or another. Because of this, it’s definitely recommended to provide plenty of time for quarantine before adding them to the main display.

One of the most common marine diseases your lyretail anthias fish are likely to get is a type of Uronema, usually Uronema marinum. This is a free-living ciliate parasite that uses the host for living, feeding, and reproducing.

Though most life stages are fulfilled while actively infecting the fish, the parasite can enter the water column and affect other organisms. It can survive on bacteria and detritus within the system indefinitely, meaning that it will survive through fallow periods.

Uronema is very quick to kill and should not be ignored. Unfortunately, its symptoms can be difficult to diagnose which can take up valuable treatment time. The main symptoms are red bumps and abrasions that eventually grow into large, open sores. Discoloration, flashing, loss of appetite, and heavy breathing also follow.

Unfortunately, many hobbyists opt to euthanize their fish once this parasite has displayed itself in the home aquarium; usually, the fish is too far gone and it’s better to sacrifice one to save the whole. However, if you manage to catch it early enough and have the proper quarantine setup and medications, then there is still some hope.

The best course of treatment is a 5 minutes freshwater dip and a dose of metronidazole every 48 hours for 10-14 days. For best results, it’s also recommended to feed medicated food with a binder like Seachem Focus and Seachem MetroPlex.

Again, introducing this parasite into the main display will cause it to live in the aquarium indefinitely. The best way to prevent it from devastating your tank is by quarantining.

Final Thoughts

The lyretail anthias is a beautiful saltwater fish meant for the reef aquarium. In the wild, these fish form harems and feed on planktonic organisms within the water column. This diet can prove to be difficult for some hobbyists, though lyretails usually adapt well to aquarium foods and conditions.

One of the major diseases to watch out for concerning these saltwater fish is Uronema, though they are very hardy after being acclimated.

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