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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes > Family Haemulidae
Harlequin sweetlips
Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides

Family Haemulidae
updated Sep 2020
Where seen? This delightful fish with cartoonish spots and which swims in frantic wiggles is sometimes seen on some of our shores. Divers also sometimes encounter it. Juveniles are seen in weedy areas, near reefs and seagrasses. Adults are seen near reefs in schools.

Features: Juveniles about 10cm are brown with large round black-ringed white spots. Large rounded tail and other fins which are white edged. The juvenile is usually solitary. Adults to about 60cm, as they grow up, the brown areas break up, black spots develop in the white areas, the spots becoming smaller with age.
Pulau Sekudu, Nov 11

Pulau Sekudu, Nov 11

Seen hiding in an empty shell.
Chek Jawa, Dec 07
Wiggly swimmer: Like some other young sweetlips species, the juvenile Harlequin sweetlips typically swims in a twisting motion. It usually swims head down in a typical 'drunken' dance, flip flopping all its large fins and tail rapidly from side to side. Small ones are said to mimick poisonous flatworms.

What does it eat?
It eats small bottom-dwelling animals such as crustaceans, molluscs and other fishes.

Human uses: The adult fish is eaten and small juveniles are harvested for the aquarium trade.

Harlequin sweetlips on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Jun 15
Photro shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

East Coast Park (B), Jun 21
Photro shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Labrador, Nov 20
Photro shared by Parizad Nasheer on facebook.

Pulau Semakau, Oct 11
Photro shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H. 2002. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral Reef Fishes of the World Periplus Editions. 400pp.
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