The Tilefish Family – Malacanthidae
Pacific Golden-eyed Tilefish, Caulolatilus affinis, a representative member of the Tilefish or Malacanthidae Family.
The fish of the Tilefish or Malacanthidae Family, also known as Whitefish, are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as blanquillos. They are found in temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. The family has 45 members that have been placed in five genera. Seven species are found in Mexican oceanic waters, five in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.
The Tilefish Family is divided into two subfamilies, the Latilinae and the Malacanthidae, each with distinct morphological differences. The Latilinae have deeper bodies with a predorsal ridge and rounded to blockish profiles; they are found at depths below 150 feet. The Malacanthidae are slender with elongated bodies and pointed heads; they are found at depths above 150 feet. Most Tilefish are drab in color being various shades of yellow, brown and gray, although smaller family members can have vibrant colors. They have anal and dorsal fins with long bases. Their anal fin has one or two weak spines and 14 to 46 rays; their caudal fin varies from truncated to forked; and their dorsal fin is continuous with 22 to 64 rays. They have small simple teeth with a few canines. Their gill cover is finely serrated and has one spine.
Tilefish are generally found demersal in shallow waters in sandy areas near coral reefs at depths between 150 and 650 feet. They range from 11 cm (4.3 inches) to 1.25 meters (4 feet 1 inch) in length and can weigh up to 30 kg (66 pounds). They are solitary individuals with excellent eyesight. They feed on small benthic invertebrates including crabs, mollusks, sea urchins, shrimp, and worms as well as small fish. All species take shelter in self-made burrows, caves or within rock piles. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, beginning life as females and later transforming into males. Mating can be monogamous or colonial in harems with one male and several females. If the male dies he will quickly be replaced by the top female who will change into a male. Females release small buoyant pelagic eggs. Larvae are also pelagic and somewhat unique having elongated and serrated spines on their head. They date to the Miocene Period, 10 to 25 million years ago.
Several Tilefish are the focus of recreational and commercial fishermen and are important food fish, however, they are also known to contain relatively high levels of mercury. A few of the smaller more colorful Tilefish are utilized by the aquarium trade but do not survive in captivity for extended periods of time.
There are currently four members of the Tilefish or Malacanthidae Family, two from the Atlantic, one from the Latilinae Subfamily and one from the Malacanthidae Subfamily and two from the Pacific, both from the Latilinae Subfamily, presented in this website: