Guides Fish Pick
by Stan & Debbie Hauter
Photo use courtesy of Brian Tissot's
Marine Fishes Of Hawai'i, File Fishes
Common Name: Orange-tail File Fish
Red-tail File Fish
Fan-tail File Fish
Hawaiian Name: 'O-'i-li le-pa, 'O-'i-le-pa, 'O-'i-li
Scientific Name: Pervagor spilosoma
Source Info: Fishes of Hawaii
by Spencer Wilkie Tinker
This File Fish is very recognizable by its colors. The body is yellow covered with irregularly sized, closely-set, black spots. The cheeks have thin, diagonal, black lines on them. The tail is a bright orange color also marked with small, black spots and a marginal, curved, black band at the outer edge.
The body is very thin and compressed. The mouth is small with six incisor-type teeth in the upper and lower jaws. The upper jaw also contains a second inner row of additional teeth.
The top and bottom dorsal fins are similar to that of The Trigger Fish Family. The dorsal fin is a larger, single spine and the lower dorsal a smaller spine. These dorsal spines can be extended and retracted allowing the fish to wedge themselves into a hole, crack or crevice for protection and sleeping, just like the Trigger Fish. They can be a very shy fish, so give them plenty of places to hide.
It is found on many areas of the reef, but we see them more commonly starting at depths of 40 feet out to the deeper edges of the reef. Periodically they will show up in large numbers in shallow waters about January, February or March. After this happens they can sometimes can be found dead on the beach. In old Hawaii they would be collected, dried and used as a fuel source.
It is one of the smaller species of File Fishes, only reaching an average length of about five inches. We see them traveling singly or in pairs. Its distribution includes the Hawaiian area and considered an Endemic fish to Hawaii.
It is wise when you catch this fish you do not use a net if at all possible. This File Fish species' skin is VERY rough textured and the two dorsal spines have a prickly, spike-like texture to them. This causes the fish to get snagged in just about any kind of net. From personal experience, sometimes you have to literally cut the net to get the fish off of it. You can always use a container with holes in it to scoop the fish with.
This fish is an Omnivore. It's main source of diet is vegetarian, but also likes to eat small crustaceans and some inverts. We find they love to eat just about any type of tank fed foods such as nori, flake food, shrimp, squid, bloodworms, and undoubtedly many others.
It is an easy fish to care for and is a fish that would be good for anyone from the beginner to the more advanced aquarist. Because of the bright orange color on the tail combined with the yellow and black on the body, it makes a nice addition to an aquarium. Just be careful about mixing it with small crabs, shrimp and other inverts in your tank. They might get eaten.