The Redlip Blenny (Ophioblennius atlanticus) is also known as Lipstick blenny and Devilfish. It belongs to the family Blenniidae, the combtooth blennies. This species is a popular aquarium fish but also renowned for being able to deliver a severe bite with its two sharp and elongated rear canine teeth.
Ophioblennius atlanticus has not been evaluated for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Geographical distribution and habitat
The Redlip Blenny is found in the Atlantic. In the Western Atlantic, you can find it from North Carolina (USA) through the Bermuda region and down to the Trindade Island of Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea. The species is present in the northern Gulf of Mexico, but only in very limited numbers. In the Eastern Atlantic you can encounter the Redlip Blenny along the western coast of Africa from Senegal to Angola, as well as around certain oceanic islands. It is for instance present around the Azores, Madeira, Canary, Ascension, St. Helena, Cape Verde, San Tomé and the Annobon Islands.
The Redlip Blenny is associated with reefs and is only found in tropical waters. The adult fish inhabit the shallow waters in the upper parts of the reef where the environment is heavily affected by substantial wave action. Adults will rarely venture further down than 8 m / 26 ft, but the larvae are frequently found much deeper down.
Size and appearance
The longest scientifically measured Redlip Blenny was 19 cm / 7.5 in. The body is elongated and the head profile in front of the eyes is vertical with the forehead protruding in front of the snout. The fish is dark brown or reddish brown on the anterior part and lighter on the posterior. (In some specimens, body, head and anal fin are pinkish grey rather than reddish brown.) Just as the name suggests, the protruding lips are reddish. Pectoral fins and tail fins are often decorated with red highlights.
Keeping Redlip Blenny in aquariums
It is not advisable to keep Redlip Blenny in an aquarium smaller than 20 gallons / 75 litres. Ideally keep your Redlip Blenny in an aquarium with plenty of natural algae growth because this fish loves to graze and will happily help you keep algae under control. The Redlip Blenny spends most of its time perched on rocks near the bottom of the tank. It likes to squeeze itself into a cave, crevice, crack, empty barnacle or similar in the wild and stay inside with only its head sticking out. It is beneficial to provide it with the opportunity to carry out this natural behaviour in the aquarium as well, e.g. by including suitable caves and crevices in the set up.
The Redlip Blenny is considered coral and invertebrate safe, but it is one of the most aggressive blennies and it will claim and defend a territory in the aquarium. If bottom-dwelling fishes enter its territory, it will chase and nip them. As mentioned above, the Redlip Blenny is equipped with two fang-like teeth and it will not hesitate to use them to defend its territory. It can attack fishes that are almost twice its own size. Combining the Redlip Blenny with other small blennies is rarely a good idea, unless you have a very large and cleverly decorated aquarium. The same is true for keeping more than one Redlip Blenny in the tank. Also keep in mind that even though the Redlip Blenny is considered coral safe, it can occasionally nip at stony corals and clam mantels, especially if not well fed in the aquarium.
The Redlip Blenny should ideally be placed in an aquarium where there is plenty of natural micro algae for it to feed on. It is also known to help keeping the aquarium free of filamentous algae. To be on the safe side, it is best to supplement the naturally occurring algae with fresh or frozen foods for herbivore/algaevore fish, especially if the aquarium is not very well established yet. Even though the Redlip Blenny feeds chiefly on algae, it is actually an omnivore that will ingest small amounts of meaty food in the wild. It is therefore a good idea to occasionally provide it with small meaty foods in the aquarium to ensure optimal health.
Breeding Redlip Blennies
The male fish is usually bigger than the female. The male fish is believed to have an extra black edge on his ventral and tail fins, but this has not yet been scientifically confirmed. The Redlip Blenny is an egg-laying species with adhesive eggs. As mentioned above, the larvae are found much deeper down in the ocean than their parents.
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