Flame Hawkfish Species Overview, Care & Breeding Guide

If you are looking for an attractive and red-colored fish for your saltwater aquarium, the flame hawkfish is here to charm you!

Whether you are looking for a fish with a dynamic personality or delightful hunting capabilities, this species has it all. It can even stand out in the best reef crowds.

While you might want to dump this quirky fish right into your aquarium, you might as well slow down a bit. Read through this article so that you don’t miss any critical components.

What are the Characteristics of Flame Hawkfish?

OriginPacific Ocean; Ryukyu Islands to Mangareva and Line Islands. Austral Islands and South of the Great Barrier Reef; The Wake Islands in Micronesia, Mariana and Caroline
Scientific NameNeocirrhites armatus
Common NamesBrilliant red hawkfish, Red hawkfish, Scarlet hawkfish
IUCN Red List StatusLeast Concern
AppearanceTeardrop-shaped body, vibrant red color, black around the eyes, and a black line running along the body
Size9 cm (3.5 in)
Lifespan5-10 years
TemperamentSemi-aggressive; friendly to humans
Reef SafeYes
Tank LevelBottom dweller
Water Temperature72-81 ˚F(22-27 ˚C)
pH Level8.1-8.4
Water Hardness8-12 dGH
Care LevelIntermediate
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons; 55 gallons for a pair
Tank EnvironmentPristine water conditions with lots of hiding spaces
Tank Mates1 male with 1-4 female; other similar or small-sized and similar-tempered species

What is the Natural Habitat of Flame Hawkfish?

The flame hawkfish lives in the western Pacific Ocean. It can be found from Japan’s Ryukyu and Ogasawara Islands in the north to the Pitcairn Islands in the east.

It also lives in the Great Barrier Reef area and other islands in Micronesia, like Caroline, Mariana, and Wake Islands.

The fish is found 3-33 feet (1-10 m) deep underwater.

The fish is classified as Least Concern according to the IUCN Red Lists status of 2015.

Which family does Flame Hawkfish belong?

The species belongs to the Perciformes order and Cirrhitidae family. Its binomial name is Neocirrhites armatus.

Owing to their dazzling color, they are most commonly known as flame hawkfish, red hawkfish, brilliant red hawkfish, and scarlet hawkfish.

Fun Fact: Despite being a marine species, hawkfish does not have a swim bladder. Thus, it can’t float, unlike other fish, and sits on rock outcroppings and corals to watch its prey. It darts to the prey, catches it, and returns to its prior position.

How do Flame Hawkfish look?

Flame hawkfish looking towards camera

If you are eager to know about the striking appearance of the fish in detail, here is everything you must know.

What is the Size of Flame Hawkfish?

The flame hawkfish is a relatively small saltwater species with a maximum length of 9 cm (3.5 in).

However, some aquarists also claim that with proper care, it can reach a length of around 10-12 cm (4-5 in).

What is the Color of Flame Hawkfish?

It is named after its fiery red scales and fins. Its vibrant red-orange scales resemble underwater bonfires in the ocean.

It sports a sleek black stripe down its back, enhancing its fiery appearance, similar to a mohawk.

A few individuals may lack this marking on their backs. But the majority display a range of black patterns, ranging from a small line to a thick band, extending about halfway into the dorsal fin.

The ‘hawk’ in the name refers to the fish’s black eye ring, similar to the hawk bird, which has black-banded eyes.

This bold, dark eyeliner forms a ‘C’ shape around its eyes, with the opening of the ‘C’ directed towards its mouth.

In some cases, the black color around the eyes connects with the black band on the back.

The remaining fins of the fish match the red color of its body, while its lips exhibit a slightly lighter shade.

What are the Features of Flame Hawkfish?

The flame hawkfish boasts a distinctive body shape resembling a teardrop, with a notably larger head region.

It possesses a deep, highly compressed body, with a length that is 2-2.5 times its depth, featuring a moderately long snout.

Its mouth is equipped with an outer row of prominent canine teeth and an inner row of smaller villiform teeth.

The canines are notably larger at the front of the upper jaw and along the sides of the lower jaw. But there are no teeth on the palatine.

Additionally, there are tufts or cirri and a flap on the rear edge of the anterior nostril. The preoperculum exhibits large serrations, particularly on its upper three-quarters.

What is the difference between a Male and Female Flame Hawkfish?

This fish is always born a female, which makes it sequential or protogynous hermaphrodites.

When there’s no male around, the strongest female changes into a male. The male then becomes the boss of the harem and mates with all the females.

The only way to differentiate between male and female hawkfish is to compare the size. The males are bigger than the females.

How do Flame Hawkfish Behave?

The flame hawkfish is renowned for its friendly and pleasant nature toward human beings. It often forms strong connections with its owners over time.

Among all hawkfish species, this is considered one of the most peaceful ones, second only to the longnose hawkfish.

However, the species is semi-aggressive towards its own kind and even other species.

It can usually coexist peacefully as a male and female pair. This can be attempted by introducing a large adult with one to four juveniles in a spacious tank. Sometimes, the fish also forms a harem of one male and 2-4 females.

Adult females are okay with smaller adult females but not the bigger ones. Juvenile fish usually swim around in small groups, and female fish can tolerate them.

The male fish often chase away the bigger females because they might turn into males and fight for territory. Thus, males are intolerant of each other.

How long do Flame Hawkfish live?

The average lifespan of a flame hawkfish is 5-10 years when kept within the company of its own. However, without proper diet and care, the fish will live for a similar lifespan but lose its brilliant red color.

Author’s Note: Despite having strong pectoral fins, it does not seem to be excellent swimmers. It pushes its body to move through the water rather than swimming.

How to take care of Flame Hawkfish?

Flame hawkfish hiding in coral reef

Flame hawkfish are hardy saltwater species and can thrive in any conditions. However, to ensure that they maintain their color and are healthy at all times, here are certain things you must consider.

What is the Tank Size for Flame Hawkfish?

Some say the minimum tank size for one flame hawkfish is 20 gallons. But in my experience, it is best to go for 30 gallons for one.

If you plan to keep it with substrate-dwelling tank mates and prevent aggression, it’s recommended to have a tank size of at least 55 gallons.

If you’re trying to pair a male and female, opt for a 55-gallon tank. And make sure you introduce the largest with a much smaller fish.

For larger tanks that are at least 6 feet (72 in) in length or have a capacity of 125 gallons, you can attempt to keep a group of 4 or 5 juveniles for a harem setup.

If you want to add other hawkfish species, only opt for those of similar or smaller size and similar tempered in at least a 125-gallon tank.

Due to its lack of a swim bladder, the species can’t swim upwards easily and relies on forward propulsion. In simpler words, it jumps and moves from rock to rock. So, make sure you consider the fish’s need for horizontal territory.

Invest in a tank that is much more spacious horizontally than vertically.

What Water Chemistry do Flame Hawkfish Prefer?

To keep your flame hawkfish thriving for years to come and sustain its bright red color, make sure you maintain the following water parameters.

  • pH Levels: 8.1-8.4
  • Water Temperature: 72-81 ˚F(22-27 ˚C)
  • Water Hardness: 8-12 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: Below ppm
  • Synthetic Salt Level: 30-35 ppt
  • Specific Gravity: 1.023-1.026

What is the Tank Environment for Flame Hawkfish?

Now, it is time to create the perfect environment for this fish by replicating its natural habitat. Dive right in to create a tank to make it feel at home!

Do Flame Hawkfish need Substrate?

Flame hawkfish is not fussy about any particular substrate. But it likes to dwell in reef aquariums as they replicate their natural habitat conditions. So, you can use coral sand or aragonite in its aquarium.

Which Lighting for Flame Hawkfish need?

The species prefer strong lighting.It’s best to recreate its natural habitat with artificial lighting. Try to use 8-10 hours of lighting every day in your tank to keep them content.

What Décor do Flame Hawkfish need?

The fish is usually calm and likes to hang out and swim around hard corals. So be sure to incorporate a lot of corals, live rocks, and rocky overhangs so that it gets plenty of hiding spaces.

If you find corals similar to the color of flame hawkfish, it is even better as it can easily blend in.

You can also add caves, rocks with crevices, and ledges to get the pleasure of watching it explore & eat its food.

What is the Filtration required for Flame Hawkfish?

This fish requires good water quality and filtration. And its bioload is quite high compared to its size. Get your hands on a heavy-duty strong filter to provide moving, clean, and oxygenated water in your tank.

Especially if you build a reef tank, make sure you use a special filtration system compatible with reef tanks.

Additionally, you also need to change your water frequently to keep the water parameters under control. Follow these tips based on the kind of tank you have at home:

For reef tanks

  • Perform 5% of water changes every week for nano tanks of up to 40 gallons
  • Medium-sized tanks perform 15% water changes two times a week
  • If you have a tank of 100 gallons and above, consider your bioload. Change water 10-20% bi-weekly or monthly

For fish-only tanks

  • For a nano tank of 40 gallons, change 15% water 2 times a week
  • For medium-sized tanks of up to 90 gallons, change 20-30% of the water every month depending on the bioload
  • For large tanks of 100 gallons and above, perform 20-30% of water changes every 6 weeks once the water is stable and aged

What is the Water Flow Rate for Flame Hawkfish?

The flame hawkfish dwells at the bottom of the tank and prefers moderate water currents. The current also helps circulate the fish waste properly around the corals, promoting their growth.

Fish Care Tip: Water changes might frighten your fish and jump out of the tank. Thus, invest in sump tanks to allow seamless cleaning.

What is the food that Flame Hawkfish eat?

It is carnivorous and, in captivity, can be a fussy eater. Some aquarists even claim that you might find these species not eating at all.

Thus, keep its diet as varied as possible. Furthermore, without proper nutrition, its color will also fade.

Plan your flame’s diet with these:

  • Crustacean flesh
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Fish flesh
  • Feather duster
  • Oriental shrimp
  • Hermit crab
  • Snails
  • Flake food
  • Dried shrimp
  • Brine shrimp
  • Pellets
  • Raw salmon flesh
  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins

The juvenile fish needs to be fed several times a day. For adults, you can stick to it twice every day.

Avoid offering live foods such as guppies and mollies as they can unleash the predator nature of the red hawkfish.

What are the Tank Mates for Flame Hawkfish?

When selecting companions for the flame hawkfish, it’s essential to exercise caution. The species has a somewhat territorial nature and doesn’t tolerate intruders well.

Therefore, provide ample space for fish that enjoy exploring the substrate. If you want to create a species-only tank, keep a few things in mind.

  • It coexists peacefully as a male and female pair or a harem of one male and several smaller females.
  • If there are any signs of aggression or bullying, it’s advisable to remove the aggressive individuals.
  • Some signs of possible conflict are circling movements, dorsal fin displays, and locking jaws.

If you want to create a community tank, choose semi-aggressive, similar-sized tank mates that can escape the hawkfish.

Choose any of these tankmates for your flame to be happy and peaceful:

  • Dwarf angels
  • Small dotty backs
  • Tangs (less aggressive types)
  • Damsels (less aggressive types)
  • Anthias
  • Large blennies
  • Large gobies
  • Fairy wrasses
  • Adult clownfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Dartfish
  • Assessors
  • Basslets
  • Dragonets
  • Boxfish
  • Rabbitfish

Apart from fish species, they do well with:

  • Anemones
  • Corallimorphs
  • Goeorgians
  • Sea fans
  • Starfish
  • Clams
  • Scallops
  • Oysters
  • Button polyps
  • Sea mats

Which Tank Mates to Avoid for Flame Hawkfish?

The flame hawkfish may display a degree of aggression or harass smaller fish. It may severely stress or even consume them if they are exceptionally small.

On the other hand, avoid housing the fish with bottom dwellers and predatory species, or your tank will become a crime scene.

Some bad tank mates are:

  • Lionfish
  • Groupers
  • Soapfish
  • Small gobies
  • Small blennies
  • Shrimps
  • Crabs
  • Snails
  • Bristle worms
  • Flatworms
  • Feather dusters

Caution: Secure your tank with a tight lid on the top, as it often jumps when scared or harassed.

What are the Common Diseases for Flame Hawkfish?

Hawkfish are tough fish species and don’t get sick easily. However, poor water management for a long time or fluctuating salt levels and temperature might lead to illnesses.

Some of the common diseases include:

Disease NameCausesSymptomsTreatment
Marine IchProtozoan Parasite InfectionWhite spots on the body, flashing, appetite loss, lethargyUse ich medications, aquarium salts, elevate water temperature
ColumnarisBacterial InfectionFungus growths, sore and red body, cloudy eyes, fin and tail rot, loss of appetite, lack of energy, white film on bodyAntibiotics, enhance water quality, and stress reduction
Fin RotBacterial InfectionThe disintegration of fins, fraying, appetite loss, lethargy, discoloration of finsElevate water quality, antibiotics, aquarium salts, ich medications, remove physically harmful objects

Hawkfish might not like being put in freshwater or treated with formaldehyde. You can prevent most of these common diseases with:

  • Stable water condition
  • Frequent diagnosis and treatments
  • Regular checking for any physical injury resulting from fighting

How to Breed Flame Hawkfish in an Aquarium?

Breeding flame hawkfish is yet to be done successfully in the home aquarium owing to the species’ territorial nature. But you can try your hand at breeding the species with some careful steps as follows:

What is the Tank Setup & Conditioning for Flame Hawkfish?

The fiery fish doesn’t compromise with space. So, ensure the availability of a sufficiently spacious tank – at least 125 gallons for a pair.

If you have a breeding harem, you need to invest in much bigger tanks – more than 200 gallons based on the number of fish.

Maintain consistent water quality and a diverse range of high-quality protein sources in their diet. This is essential for good health and facilitates successful reproduction.

What is the Mating process of Flame Hawkfish?

In their natural habitat, this species engages in spawning activities during the evening hours – around sunset and dusk. These fish spawn year-round.

During courtship, the male swims in a circular pattern and looping movements around the female, near the tank’s bottom. When the female is interested, both start an intricate courtship dance.

The male ultimately leads her to the chosen courtship site. To induce the release of eggs, the male stimulates the female by nudging her with his snout, sitting on her, and quivering his body.

Subsequently, both fish raise their heads and flex their pectoral fins. Within one to two seconds, they swiftly swim upwards for a short distance, releasing their gametes near the water’s surface.

After this reproductive event, the pair returns to their coral home.

If a male flame hawkfish has a harem, he repeats this courtship and mating process with each female.

Incubation & Fry Development

After breeding, be attentive to spot the eggs gradually floating to the water’s surface. Gently collect these eggs and transfer them to the designated incubation tank.

If you leave the eggs in the breeding tank with your parents, they may get consumed by other fish. So, invest in a separate tank for the incubation and development of fry.

Maintain the same water conditions as in the breeding tank. Include a secure, tightly fitting lid once the juvenile flame hawkfish start to grow.

They need approximately three weeks for incubation.

Mark your calendar for the anticipated three-week incubation period and then check for young fish.

Feed flame hawkfish fry primarily enriched brine shrimp and copepods. As they grow, start changing water more frequently.

These young hawkfish are significantly more sensitive to water quality than their adult counterparts, and even minor fluctuations can be detrimental.

Swift removal of any deceased fry is essential, and weekly monitoring of water parameters is strongly recommended.

Can Young and Old Flame Hawkfish be in Same Tank?

It’s important to note that young flame hawkfish cannot be introduced into the main tank with the older ones as it may result in aggression.

Breeding Tip: Flame hawkfish can produce thousands of eggs. If you don’t have a plan to house the new fish separately, don’t breed this species.

How to Buy Flame Hawkfish?

  • Buy a school of all female juvenile fishes and wait for the most dominant one to turn into a male. There’s no need to buy a male fish separately.
  • If you buy male fish, don’t buy females larger than the males, as they can fight each other for territory.

A word from FishInAquarium

The flame hawkfish is pretty hardy and has always been a favorite among seasoned and slightly experienced aquarists.

The smart fish is bound to get you hooked with its cute tactics and responsive behavior toward owners.

Hope this article convinced you to give these red flickers of flame a chance!

If you’re satisfied with all the information you received, make sure to share it with other enthusiasts. Support them to successfully raise this fin buddy as well.

In case you face any roadblocks, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via email, and we will do our best to help you!

Minnie B Miller - Professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium

About Minnie B Miller

Minnie B. Miller, a professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium, has over 8 years of expertise in fish breeding and care, gained through her roles at AquaticTX and Sea Lion Landing. Having honed her skills with various aquatic species, she is dedicated to empowering fellow enthusiasts by sharing her knowledge and experience.