Symphorichthys spilurus

This is a blue-lined sea bream (Symphorichthys spilurus), also known as a sailfin snapper. It's a beautiful fish.

Symphorichthys spilurus
Symphorichthys spilurus profile (License image)

They are reported to frequent sandy-bottom areas around coral reefs, in the five to 60m range, but in over 20 years of diving, I've only ever seen them a couple of times, maybe.

They do gather in large numbers for spawning though. And by large numbers, I mean like this:

Symphorichthys spilurus spawning palau
Symphorichthys spilurus gathering for group spawning (License image)

And this:

Symphorichthys spilurus Palau
That's a lotta' fish! (License image)

I've been on a quest for a couple of years now to photograph the actual spawning. Unfortunately, it's super-difficult. Sigh.

Spawning takes place at, 35m is shallow (which means there's not a lot of light)...and usually in strong, get swept away in the blink-of-an-eye type current.

To make it even more difficult, the actual act of spawning only involves a handful of fish at a time...even though the gathered school comprises thousands of individuals...and takes place so fast that lightning seems slow by comparison. Sigh again.

Symphorichthys spilurus, Palau
Sometimes, even fish feel the need to go their own way (License image)

With the help of friends (thanks Tom, Rich!), I have managed to photograph embryos of this species, if not the actual making-of part of this fish's life history.

This is at 10 hours post-fertilisation:

Symphorichthys spilurus embryo
Symphorichthys spilurus embryo at 10 hours (License image)

And this at about 35 hours:

Symphorichthys spilurus larva
Symphorichthys spilurus at 35 hours post-fertilisation (License image)

Cool, huh?

Glutton for punishment that I am, I'm sure I'll go back to Palau to try to photograph the actual spawning again.