The six-lined soapfish (Grammistes sexlineatus) is also known as the goldenstriped soapfish, Pacific goldenstriped bass and skunkfish. The name soapfish is derived from the soapy toxic secretion that they produce when stressed. The peptide toxins in the secretions are known as grammistins and seem similar to bee venom and secretions from other toxic fish. These toxins have been investigated for their potential antibiotic and antimicrobial activity. Soapfish are closely related to groupers.
The background body color is a dark brown with six yellow or white horizontal lines. The number of lines depends on the age of the fish. The Juveniles start off with white to yellow dots on a dark brown base color and as they grow the points become lines. They grow to a length of 15 cm but they are seldom seen at this size in the wild. Usually they are seen around 8 to 10 cm in size. The specimen above which has blue markings on its lips was in the 15cm range.
IN THE WILD
The six-lined soapfish are particularly reclusive fish. They are almost never seen out during the day. When seen they are usually hiding under an overhang. They are more commonly seen during the night close to or under a hiding spot. The juveniles are sometimes seen in rock pools inshore on the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast.
The six-lined soapfish is found throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific area from the eastern coast of Africa from south of Durban to the Red Sea. Across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and from Japan south to New Zealand. They are found on coastal rocky and coral reefs from 1 to 40 meters in depth.
The six-lined soapfish are nocturnal feeders, feeding mainly on small crustaceans and fish.
The fish have been successfully bred by researchers in Taiwan but so far few details have been released, so little is known about their breeding habits.
Because of the potential danger of the fish becoming stressed and releasing toxins into an aquarium they are not commonly kept by most enthusiasts. It is however possible to keep them but you have to watch them to ensure that they are not stressed. It is best to keep only one in a tank to avoid any potential rivalry which could stress them.
SIX-LINED SOAPFISH CLASSIFICATION
Species: G. sexlineatus
- The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates: East and South Coasts of Southern Africa by Dennis King & Valda Fraser