FIA is community supported website. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More.

Flame Hawkfish Overview, Care, Tank Setup & Breeding

Flame Hawkfish is a hardy little fish that displays vibrant colors that make it popular among marine fishkeepers.

They’re easy to provide for and quickly adjust to tank life. They have an inquisitive nature and unique behavioral traits that make it endlessly entertaining to observe from afar.

The flame hawk gets its name from the bright red body or red-orange scales that strongly contrast against the black strip – almost as if engulfed in fire.

This feature makes it stand out in any aquarium setting and holds its own against its similarly stunning tank mates like the Clownfish.

Like other Hawkfish species, Flame Hawkfish (Scientific name: Neocirrhites Armatus) tend to be a bit aggressive towards their tank mates, so make sure you choose the right fish to maximize their chances of survival.

These are tiny and beginner-friendly, making them high on our list for hobbyists new to fishkeeping.

Check out this in-depth care sheet for Flame Hawkfish.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
TemperamentSemi-aggressive but get along with other fish
AppearanceBright red with black markings on the dorsal fin  
Life ExpectancyCan live for 10
SizeReach a size of 4 to 5 inches maximum
DietStrictly carnivorous species
Tank Size30 gallons per fish or preferably a larger aquarium
Tank EnvironmentPlenty of live rock for hiding and aquaspacing
Tank MatesVery peaceful with other community fish

They’re the go-to choice for fishkeepers who want something unique and stand out in an aquarium setting; the Flame Hawkfish has both appearance and temperament going for it.

They originate from the Pacific Ocean, mostly the Great Barrier Reef, Ryukyu Islands, Samoan Islands, Coral Sea, and the Fiji Ocean.

Flame Hawkfish are not native to the Indian Ocean and are primarily found in the Pacific Ocean.


Their appearance is the primary reason the Flame Hawkfish has gained notoriety among fishkeepers. They’ve earned names such as the Brilliant Red Hawkfish, Red Hawkfish, and, of course, the Flame Hawk.

The Flame Hawk has a shade of deep red scales with a bright slender body and black markings around the eyes. This combo is sure to draw attention to your tank as it swims in and out of hiding and perches in its favorite area, hunting for food.

They also have a prominent arc-shaped dorsal band, mostly black but bright orange towards the outer edges. The dorsal fin looks almost like a mohawk, and under the proper settings, it may give the impression of a hawk bird with black markings on its eyes.

Males and females share the same physical characteristics; this contributes to the difficulty in breeding these species. As the Flame Hawkfish grows longer, it reportedly undergoes a few transformations in its shape.

Behavioral Traits

Their semi-aggressive nature means that they will go after smaller fish that can’t defend themselves, including small ornamental invertebrates and shrimps.

As a general rule, any prey that can fit in its mouth will serve to stimulate its basic hunting instincts. They have an appetite for crustaceans and shrimp; these creatures should not be paired with the Flame Hawk. However, large shrimps that are bigger than the Flame Hawkfish won’t be viewed as prey.

Their bold nature certainly adds a lot of character and personality to any tank, making them a unique addition to a reef tank.

After thoroughly inspecting the aquarium, the Hawkfish will claim two territories. The first is a ledge to watch the tank from a safe space and a cave to hide. During the daytime, it rests on its shelf, keeping a close eye on the tank and outside.

During the nighttime, it goes into its cave and sleeps. While fish were resting, their eyes constantly peeked out of the cave for signs of predators and other dangers.

If they sense danger or quick movement, the Flame Hawkfish will quickly retreat into its cave and wait until it’s safe to come out again.

Many owners prefer to have their Hawkfish acting this way, as they watch them dash in and out, almost as if interacting with them as opposed to only becoming active when it’s feeding time.

The Flame Hawkfish is not particularly good at swimming and avoids lurking in larger areas out of fear of predators, explaining why it makes do with a 30-gallon tank.

Instead, they prefer to hang out on corals, rocks, or anything else they could rest on to save energy. Many aquarists find it a bit humorous to see them run out of breath as it perches on a landing spot after just a few minutes of dashing across the tank.

They prefer to keep control of the water column closer to the substrate and fight off tank mates that swim closer to their spot. Flame Hawkfish can sometimes be seen breaking up fights between their tank mates.

They are generally tolerant of fish that occupy higher tank levels and know well enough to avoid their territory.

Jumping Behavior

As a general rule, all saltwater fish like to jump as they try to explore as much of their surroundings as possible.

This Flame Hawkfish doesn’t seem to enjoy swimming a lot due to the lack of a swim bladder. As we’ve mentioned earlier, they prefer to perch on rock works and corals. Jumping isn’t part of their natural behavior.

With that said, this fish must have a secure lid because they are prone to jumping when startled. They only grow to a size of about 4″ or 5″ max, making it easy for them to slip out tiny holes in the tank. Secure the tank by covering all cut-outs with a mesh screen to prevent them from escaping.

Tank Mates

They are a bit aggressive and will bully smaller fish, stressing them to the point of death. If the fish is too small, the Flame Hawkfish may decide to eat it. They have a carnivorous diet and will eat anything small enough to be gobbled up.

Most saltwater fish should have no trouble out-swimming the Flame Hawkfish. But if it mistakes their tank mates for prey, it’s only a matter of when, and not if, that it decides to eat it. Look for tank mates that are similarly sized, can outrun the Flame Hawkfish, and have a semi-aggressive temper.

Those in danger of the Flame Hawkfish are:

  • Tiny, slow-moving bottom-dwellers
  • Clean up crews such as shrimps, crabs, and snails that are tiny and slow-moving
  • Fry and juvenile fish

You’ll notice that your smaller fish will quickly diminish in population, making it best to separate them from the Hawkfish that could see them as prey. Fry must reach a length of at least an inch before being introduced into the main tank.

Caution: The general behavioral traits of Hawkfish are hard to reproduce like-for-like in most tanks. It is not unheard of for Flame Hawkfish to harass tank mates over twice their size. However, their aggressive behavior should taper down as they adjust to their new surroundings and find a spot for themselves.

Flame hawkfish looking towards camera

Food & Diet

Flame Hawkfish are exclusively carnivorous and enjoy a diet that comprises live food such as small invertebrates, crustaceans, and generally little creatures.

They will eat ornamental shrimp, feather dusters, grab snails, and hermit crabs right out of their shells. Although fish doesn’t form part of their natural diet in the wild, they will jump at the chance of eating smaller fish if they happen to swim.

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to provide Flame Hawkfish with a varied diet because they will eat just about anything you throw at them. They may struggle to adapt when first introduced into the tank and be highly selective, but they’ll soon come around.

Give enough time, and even the most stubborn Red Hawkfish will start feeding on a diet of flake food, dried shrimp, and other ‘normal’ aquarium food.

Should provide this fish with a daily diet of finely chopped fresh meat, fish flesh, shrimp, and other frozen meaty foods appropriate for marine species.

Ideal Tank Conditions

Flame Hawkfish can be kept in medium to large tanks that are at least 30 gallons or more. However, if you decide to support multiple of these, you’ll have to graduate to a bigger tank with at least 200 gallons or more.

Red Hawkfish are hardy and can tolerate more minor changes in the water’s parameters, making them an excellent addition to just about any reef tank. Below are a few more details.

Water Parameters:

  • Temperature: 76-81 ° F
  • Specific Gravity: 1.025-1.026
  • pH Value: 8.1-8.4
  • Calcium: 420-435 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 8-9.5 dKH
  • Magnesium: 1260-1340 ppm
  • Nitrates: Less than10ppm
  • Phosphates: Less than 0.10ppm

Should maintain this water chemistry in the tank:

  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrites: 0 ppm
  • Nitrates: < 10ppm

Pro Tip: Never allow the temperature to abruptly change beyond 2 ° because it would lead to elevated stress levels in your Flame Hawkfish.

Tank Setup: Things to Add

Flame Hawkfish are bottom-dwellers lurking near coral heads and rockwork to perch on and hide in their natural habitat. They hardly exceed 4″ in length and are aware that larger fish could hunt them down, which explains their skittish nature. It is suggested to recreate this habitat in your tank.

The marine tank should contain lots of rock work for the Red Hawkfish to perch on. For this purpose, live rocks are the right choice.

It is essential to provide the Red Hawkfish with well-oxygenated water with a moderate current towards the reef tank’s bottom. If it feels too stressed out, it could lose its vibrant color if the ideal habitat is not provided.

They’re skittish and prone to jumping out. It is why you should change the water with a sump to avoid startling. Sudden changes to the water flow will cause this fish to jump out, making direct water changes to the tank more dangerous. If you don’t have a sump, make sure to be very careful when changing the water.

Flame hawkfish hiding in coral reef

Breeding Flame Hawkfish

Red Hawkfish are characterized as sequential hermaphrodites, which means they’re all born as females. In a group with many females and the lack of any male Flame Hawkfish, the most dominant fish will change its sex and become male.

They will become more extensive in size when doing so. The male will then exert control over the group and mate with all the females. If the male is removed or dies, then the female next in line of dominance will take control. It is the typical breeding behavior of most Hawkfish.

Flame hawkfish will perform their mating rituals during dusk and swim to the surface of the tank. Because they’re an egg-laying species, the female will lay her eggs near the water’s surface at night. Their eggs are buoyant and will float near the water surface.

The most effective way to breed these is to add them together when they are still very young and have not yet changed genders. When you introduce them into the tank as adults, they’ll not get along even if the tank is over 150 gallons in size.

The Flame Hawkfish prefers to mate at night. So To recreate the spawning conditions, fishkeepers must do the following:

  • Provide the pair with plenty of high-quality food
  • Keep the temperature at around 80 ° Fahrenheit (or slightly higher than usual)
  • Ensure the water flow and lighting level is consistent
  • Provide the pair with a large tank with at least 100 gallons of swimming space

Once they complete their mating ritual, you can remove the eggs and keep them in a special tank for fry. In the wild, Hawkfish will release thousands of eggs over some time. Keep a close eye on eggs and collect until you can’t see more.

Caring for Fry

The second tank needs to have the same water conditions as the older tank. If you do everything right, the fry should hatch in about three weeks. It is essential to be patient.

When the fry hatch out, they should be kept on a diet of copepod cultures and brine shrimp. It should provide the fry with enough nutrition to grow large enough and survive. Ensure the tank is large enough to support their growth because they will put on size and weight as they grow larger.

Flame Hawkfish fry is known for having a large bio-load, which means you should change the water frequently. Failure to do this will result in the fry’s death. Because they’re still young, fries are prone to jumping to their death.

Caution: Always monitor the tank’s water parameters. Fry is significantly more sensitive to the water’s quality and could die very quickly if the tank’s conditions are allowed to degrade. As a general rule, you should monitor the tank’s conditions every week.

Not all fry will survive, making it essential to remove those who could not make it. It can be a problem because the fry will get spooked when you reach the tank for the removal process.

Try to be as slow and non-intimidating as possible. Do not leave any room for the fish to escape. Most breeders use larger tanks to prevent Flame Hawkfish fry from jumping out.

Once the fry age and gain size, it becomes essential to shift them to their new home. At this point, you could sell them to a local aquarist or donate them to someone else.

The new tank must be at least 200 gallons in size if it has other Flame Hawkfish. Older Hawkfish are known for attacking their smaller counterparts.

Diseases and Care

For the most part, Flame Hawkfish are hardy and less susceptible to diseases. That being said, you should quarantine any live food, fresh fish, rockwork, and corals before introducing them into the tank.

They need a good diet and a healthy environment to fend off diseases and infections such as ich. Garlic is a great way to ward off parasites and boost your fish’s immunity.

Will a Flame Hawkfish go after Featherdusters?

Flame Hawkfish will pick on feather dusters worms and perch on them from time to time. It makes it necessary to remove feather dusters from the tank or provide both creatures with a large environment to avoid each other.

Where to Buy?

Flame Hawkfish for sale can be purchased from most local aquarium pet stores near you and online stores and online forums from specialist breeders. Because of extensive breeding and wide availability,

the average price tag for the Flame Hawkfish is generally affordable at around $30 or slightly more. Actual prices depend on where you live and availability.

Wrapping Up

Flame Hawkfish look like tiny fireballs in a tank. They’re very interested, have a simple easy-care sheet to maintain, and generally get along well with other tank mates as long as they don’t come near their territory.

The average lifespan is over ten years, which means they’ll keep you entertained for a long time to come.

All in all, the Flame Hawkfish is a stunning fish that will contribute to your marine tank’s value. Just keep an eye out for any aggressive behavior and remove fish that give each other a hard time.