A shoal of bizarre needle-like fish that spend their lives standing on their heads is the latest attraction at Bristol Aquarium.
The shrimpfish – close cousins of the seahorse and sea dragon – swim in synchronised groups with each fish in a vertical position with its snout pointing down.
The fish, which can reach lengths of up 15cm and have a black stripe running down their bodies, hide from predators among the prickly points of the black spiny sea urchin or the fronds of sea grasses.
They swim with their heads pointing downwards as it’s the most efficient way for them to hunt the tiny shrimps, which give the fish their common name.
Bristol Aquarium’s Paul Strachan said: “We have a shoal of 10 and they’re amazing looking creatures which really don’t look, or behave, like any other type of fish.
“It’s really strange to see them together – their synchronised swimming is almost like watching some kind of underwater ballet!”
Aquarists at the aquarium are hoping the new arrivals will follow in the footsteps of their seahorse cousins and start breeding over the coming months.
“Our captive breeding programme for seahorses has been particularly successful over recent months and we’re optimistic the shrimpfish will prove to be equally co-operative,” added Paul.
Like seahorses the fish have no scales but are instead encased in a semi-rigid outer armour and, just like their famous relatives, they also snap up shrimps with their tube-like snouts.
In the wild, shrimpfish live in coastal reefs and seagrass beds forming schools among the spines of sea urchins or certain species of coral. They’re found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and in the Red Sea.
Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information please contact Tina Patel or Paul Strachan on 0117 929 8929.