Sunburst Anthias: Species Profile, Characteristics, & Tips

| Updated: July 13, 2023
Sunburst Anthias side profile

Do you love colorful and lively fish in your reef tank? Do you want a fish that’s peaceful, social, and easy to get along with? If so, you might want to check out the sunburst anthias. This fish is a rare and stunning member of the Anthias family that has a lot of personality and charm. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the sunburst anthias, including how it looks, how it acts, what it eats, how to care for it, and how to breed it.

What is a Sunburst Anthias?

The sunburst anthias is a type of marine fish that belongs to the same group as over 200 other species of small, colorful, and reef-friendly fish. The sunburst anthias is the only one of its kind in its own genus, which means it has some unique features that set it apart from other anthias. For example, it has two pairs of small, fleshy tentacles on its snout and one pair on its lower jaw. These tentacles, called cirri, help the fish sense its surroundings.

The sunburst anthias has a scientific name of Serranocirrhitus latus, which means “broad serranid with cirri.” It was first discovered by a Japanese scientist named Shigeho Tanaka in 1918. The common name of sunburst anthias comes from its amazing coloration, which looks like a burst of sunlight. It also goes by other names, such as hawkfish anthias, swallowtail basslet, coral perch, hawk anthias, fathead anthias, or fathead sunburst anthias.

Species Overview

Scientific Name
Serranocirrhitus latus
Common Names
sunburst anthias, fathead sunburst anthias, hawkfish anthias, swallowtail basslet, coral perch, hawk anthias, fathead anthias
Serranidae (groupers and sea basses), subfamily Anthiinae (anthias)
Western Pacific Ocean, from Japan to Australia
Adult Size
up to 5 inches
Life Expectancy
unknown, but possibly 3 to 5 years or more
non-aggressive, peaceful
moderate to difficult, requires a lot of care and attention
Minimum Tank Size
55 gallons for a single fish, 125 gallons for a group
Captive Breedable

What Does a Sunburst Anthias Look Like?

The sunburst anthias is a small fish that can grow up to 5 inches long. It has a slim and long body with a big head and mouth. The body is mostly pink with yellow-to-orange edges on the scales and markings on the face. The fins are edged in blue. The dorsal fin is long and has a notch near the middle. The tail fin is forked and has two long threads at the ends.

The sunburst anthias is one of the few anthias that doesn’t have different colors or shapes for males and females. However, males tend to be bigger and brighter than females.

The sunburst anthias can also change sex from female to male when needed. This usually happens when a group leader dies or leaves, and the biggest female takes over.

Sunburst Anthias Personality and Behavior

The sunburst anthias is a peaceful and social fish that likes to live in groups of 5 to 10 fish. It likes to stay near the bottom of the tank, where it can find places to hide among rocks and corals. It’s not very active during the day but becomes more lively at dawn and dusk when it comes out to feed on tiny animals in the water.

They have a complex social system that’s based on size and sex. The biggest and strongest male in a group is the boss and has a territory and a group of females. The other males are smaller and weaker and have to stay away from the boss’s area. The females have their own order based on size. The boss male will protect his area and females from other fish.

Sunburst anthias are not very mean towards other fish unless they look like them or are too big or too small. It can live peacefully with other peaceful and reef-safe fish, such as gobies, blennies, clownfish, tangs, wrasses, and other anthias. But it shouldn’t be kept with bigger or meaner fish that might bother or eat it.

What Does a Sunburst Anthias Eat?

The sunburst anthias is a meat-eater that eats mostly zooplankton, which are tiny animals that float in the water. Some examples of zooplankton are copepods, amphipods, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and other small crustaceans. It has a big mouth that can suck in food from the water.

In a tank, sunburst anthias need to eat often to stay healthy and colorful. It should be fed three times daily with different kinds of frozen or live foods with vitamins and minerals. Some good foods are frozen mysis shrimp, frozen brine shrimp, frozen krill, frozen plankton, and live copepods. It can also eat some dry foods, such as flakes, pellets, or granules if they are small enough for its mouth.

Sunburst anthias burn a lot of energy and need to eat all the time to avoid starving. It’s important to give enough food to the whole group if you have multiple Anthias and make sure that every fish gets some. Oftentimes they can be shy and scared when it comes to eating, especially if there are other fish that are faster or more aggressive. They may need some time to get used to the food and become braver.

Caring for a Sunburst Anthias

A sunburst anthias can be a delicate and picky fish that needs a lot of care and attention. Their needs are not difficult to meet but they are more requiring than a simple fish like a clownfish or damsel. A beginner can do well with one of these Anthias, provided they are willing to spend some time on them. Here are some of the main things you need to do to take care of a sunburst anthias in your tank:

Tank size

A big and roomy tank to swim and hide is ideal. The smallest recommended tank size for one sunburst anthias is 55 gallons, but a bigger tank of 75 gallons or more is better. For a group of sunburst anthias, their tank size should be at least 125 gallons+.

Water quality

Like most fish, they need clean and stable water quality to be happy. Water levels should be kept steady and within these ranges:

  • Temperature 72-78°F
  • PH 8.1-8.4
  • Specific gravity 1.020-1.025
  • Ammonia 0 ppm
  • Nitrite 0 ppm
  • Nitrate <10 ppm
  • Phosphate <0.05 ppm
  • Calcium 400-450 ppm
  • Alkalinity 8-12 dKH
  • Magnesium 1250-1350 ppm

The water should have enough oxygen and have medium to strong water flow. Regular water changes of 10-20% every week or two are very important to keep the water quality good.


Sunburst anthias don’t need special lighting as long as it’s not too bright or dark. A normal reef lighting system with white and blue LEDs or T5 fluorescent tubes should work well. The lighting cycle should copy the natural day and night cycle, with about 10-12 hours of light and 12-14 hours of dark.


These Anthias need lots of places to hide and feel safe in the tank. Preferably near the bottom of the tank, where it can find shelter among rocks and corals. A well-decorated tank with live rock, caves, cracks, ledges, overhangs, and branches will give the sunburst anthias a natural and cozy home. The tank should also have some open space for swimming and eating.


Sunburst anthias are very sensitive to changes in water levels and stress. Acclimate them slowly and carefully to the new tank using the drip method. The drip method means adding water from the new tank to the bag or container that has the fish at a rate of about 2-4 drops per second. This lets the fish slowly get used to the new water without shocking its system. The acclimation process should take at least an hour or longer until the water in the bag or container matches the water in the tank. After acclimation, the fish should be gently released into the tank using a net or a cup.


Unfortunately, these fish are prone to getting sick and having parasites, such as ich, velvet, flukes, bacterial infections, fungal infections, and so on. It’s recommended to quarantine them in a different tank for at least two weeks before adding them to the main tank. In a perfect world, the quarantine tank should have the same water levels and decoration as the main tank but without any other fish or invertebrates. Watch the Anthias every day for any signs of sickness or strange behavior. If any symptoms are seen, the fish should be treated right away with medicine or natural remedies.

Why Choose a Sunburst Anthias for Your Reef Tank?

The sunburst anthias is a great addition to any reef tank that can meet its needs and wants. Here are some of the reasons why you might want to choose a sunburst anthias for your reef tank:

  • Color: The sunburst anthias is one of the most colorful and pretty fish in the anthias family. Its body is a deep peachy orange with a purplish belly and yellow-to-orange edges on the scales. Its fins are edged in blue, and its tail has two long threads. Its face has special markings and cirri that give it a lot of character and expression. The sunburst anthias is a real eye-catcher that can brighten up any tank with its vivid colors.
  • Personality: The sunburst anthias is a friendly and peaceful fish that has a lot of personality and charm. It’s not very shy or scared but rather curious and playful. It likes to explore its surroundings and interact with its tank mates. It can also be trained to recognize its owner and accept food from the hand. The sunburst anthias is a fun and amusing fish that can provide hours of enjoyment and amusement.
  • Compatibility: The sunburst anthias is compatible with most other peaceful and reef-safe fish, as long as they’re not too similar in looks or size. It can live peacefully with gobies, blennies, clownfish, tangs, wrasses, and other anthias. It can also live with most corals and invertebrates, as it doesn’t nip or bother them. However, it should be avoided by aggressive or predatory fish that might hurt or eat it.
  • Research: The sunburst anthias is a rare and unique fish that hasn’t been studied much by scientists. It’s one of the few anthias that doesn’t have different colors or shapes for males and females. It’s also one of the few anthias that can change sex from female to male when needed. It’s also one of the few anthias that has cirri on its head and jaw. If The sunburst anthias is an interesting fish that can spark your research interests and curiosity.

Challenges of Keeping a Sunburst Anthias

The sunburst anthias is not an easy fish to keep, as it has some challenges and difficulties that need to be overcome. Here are some of the main challenges of keeping a sunburst anthias in your reef tank:

  • Availability: The sunburst anthias is a rare and uncommon fish that’s not easy to find in the aquarium trade. It’s only found in a small area in the western Pacific Ocean, from Japan to Australia. It’s also hard to catch and transport, as it lives in 50 to 200 feet deep waters. Therefore, sunburst anthias are often pricey and hard to find in local fish stores or online sellers.
  • Acclimation: The sunburst anthias is very sensitive to changes in water levels and stress.
  • Feeding: The sunburst anthias has a high metabolism and needs to eat constantly to avoid starving. It needs frequent feedings of small, meaty foods that have vitamins and minerals.
  • Groups: The sunburst anthias is a social fish that likes to live in groups of 5 to 10 fish. It needs a big, roomy tank to fit its group size and behavior. When keeping more than 1, it’s best to introduce them all at the same time to limit any aggression or future issues.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a peaceful anthias species that can add a burst of bright colors to your reef tank, or you love Anthias fish but don’t have/want the larger-sized aquarium many of them require, the sunburst anthias is a perfect choice. You can’t go wrong with this rare and beautiful member of the Anthias family, with all of it’s personality and charm. We hope this article has given you some helpful information and tips about the sunburst anthias and that you’ll enjoy keeping this fish in your reef tank.

Shane Elliot Author Image
Shane Elliot

Shane Elliot is a pet lover and a coral enthusiast. He has been keeping saltwater aquariums for over ten years and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with other hobbyists. He writes about coral care, fish compatibility, aquarium equipment, and more. He also covers topics related to other animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and reptiles. Shane works as a freelance writer and editor when his menagerie of pets allows it.

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