Bodianus pulchellus: A Hardy Hogfish for the Spacious Marine Tank

Cuban [Spotfin] Hogfish (Bodianus pulchellus)

Cuban [Spotfin] Hogfish (Bodianus pulchellus)

Among the Bodianus spp. wrasses, commonly known as the hogfishes, are several species that, while hardy and beautiful, simply get too large for most home aquariums. But also among this group can be found a few choice species that remain small enough to be kept in manageably sized systems. Of these smaller hogs, one of my favorites is the Cuban, or spotfin, hogfish (B. pulchellus) from the Caribbean.

Physical traits

B. pulchellus has the streamlined body typical of wrasses. Its color, which can be quite variable, is generally pink to red-orange overall with a horizontal white band extending from below the mouth to approximately just past the mid-body. Around where the white band terminates, the coloration shifts to yellow, potentially including the trailing edge of the dorsal and anal fins and on most, if not all, of the caudal fin.

With regard to maximum size, the record for this species is about 11 inches, but most specimens are likely to reach only around 6 to 7 inches—still a respectable size, but by no means a tankbuster.


The Cuban hogfish is carnivorous and typically adapts well to most suitably sized meaty food items, such as chopped mollusk or crustacean flesh, mysid shrimp, enriched brine shrimp, plankton, frozen formulations for carnivores, and pellets. Two or three feedings per day are recommended.


Though B. pulchellus is relatively small by hogfish standards, it’s a fairly active species and, therefore, does require a decent-sized aquarium for its size. A system in the vicinity of 100 to 125 gallons should be considered minimum housing for an adult specimen.

Also, be sure to arrange the aquascaping in such a manner that allows this bold and active species uninhibited swimming room—ideally with the rockwork situated away from the back pane of the tank so the hog can swim uninterrupted in a circular or figure-eight pattern (i.e., with one peak in the center of the tank or two peaks separated by a channel).


B. pulchellus isn’t overly aggressive, but its boisterous behavior precludes keeping it with shy, retiring species. Also, very small fish are on its natural menu, so make sure any tankmates are too large to fit it in its mouth. With those points taken into consideration, the Cuban hogfish should cohabit nicely with most medium to large, moderately aggressive species.

With respect to reef compatibility, B. pulchellus is generally inoffensive toward corals and other sessile invertebrates. However, it can’t be trusted with ornamental shrimps, small crustaceans, and other small motile invertebrates. Given this proclivity, its boisterous behavior, and the copious waste a well-fed specimen can produce, I wouldn’t necessarily put the Cuban hogfish at the top of my reef-friendly list.


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.

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