The Sailfin rubberlip (Diagramma centurio) also known as the Sailfin Sweetlips, is a species of grunt. Closely related to the snappers, grunts have smaller mouths and teeth and thicker fleshy lips hence the name sweetlips or rubberlips. They may also grind their teeth together when caught, emitting a grunting sound, hence the name grunt. The Sailfin rubberlip is a relatively common fish on the east African coast.
Sailfin rubberlip have a silver grey body with indistinct small spots that are more prominent towards the dorsal area. As their name suggests they have a proportionally large dorsal fin which is usually kept down. The caudal area is proportionally elongated, making them easy to distinguish. The juveniles are a grey color with two thick black horizontal stripes across the body. An attractive looking fish which grows up to 75 cm.
IN THE WILD
The adult Sailfin rubberlip are often solitary and are generally easy to approach. They are curious fish and will sometimes come and inspect a diver. But if one gets too close they are quick to dart into a hiding spot or to sit under an overhang. The juveniles are elusive and hide in crevices or caves when approached. They will sometimes be seen swimming with other sweetlips species.
The Sailfin rubberlips is found only in the western Indian Ocean along the East African coast down to South Africa and across to the Seychelles. The juveniles are seen on the reef, usually close to a coral bommie with hiding spots, which they are quick to dart into. The adults are seen hanging over or near the reef during the day, singly or in small groups.
The Sailfin rubberlip are nocturnal feeders , feeding mainly on small crustaceans and fish.
Very little is known about their breeding habits but they are assumed to mate and lay and fertilize eggs into the water table above the reef.
The Sailfin rubberlip is caught on the line and is targeted by spear fishermen. The meat is said to be very tasty.
These fish grow quite large and because of this are not generally kept in private aquariums. Some public aquariums keep them in their larger tanks.
SAILFIN RUBBERLIP CLASSIFICATION
Species: D. centurio
- The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates: East and South Coasts of Southern Africa by Dennis King & Valda Fraser