Flame Hawkfish (Red Hawkfish)

Care Information on Neocirrhitus Armatus

Flame Hawkfish
Nomore3xfive / Flickr / CC By 2.0

The flame or red hawkfish is a hale and hardy little fish for most saltwater reef tanks. This fish's vibrant red color, personable nature, and small size make it a highly sought after specimen by aquarium enthusiasts. However, like most hawkfish, it is a predatory bottom-dweller. It likes to sit on top of rocks or corals to keep watch, ready to pounce on any unsuspecting prey that swims too close.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Red hawkfish, brilliant hawkfish, flame hawk

Scientific Name: Neocirrhitus armatus

Adult Size: 3.5 inches (9 centimeters)

Life Expectancy: 10 years


Family Cirrhitidae
Origin Fiji, Cook Islands, Australia, and other west and south Pacific waters
Social Semi-aggressive
Tank Level Bottom-dweller
Minimum Tank Size 40 gallon
Diet Carnivore, marine meats, live feeder shrimp
Breeding Egglayer, releases fertilized eggs to float away
Care Intermediate
pH 8.1 to 8.4
Hardness 8 to 12 dGH
Temperature 72 to 78 F

Origin and Distribution

Flame hawkfish hail from the western/central area of the Pacific Ocean. Its territory range is as far northwest as the Ryukyu Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef in the southwest, and the Samoan Islands to the east. This range includes the Philippine Sea, the Coral Sea, and Micronesia. Flame hawkfish ​​are a Pacific species and are not native to the Indian Ocean.

Colors and Markings

Flame hawkfish get their name for their flame, bright red, or red-orange scales and fins. They have a head-to-tail black stripe down the back that looks like a mohawk. Black also surrounds the eyes in a ring, giving the impression of a hawk bird with black-banded eyes.


In a reef tank, this fish will most likely take up residence in a hard coral head, perching on top when at ease, and darting down inside the coral head when threatened. It may also take up refuge next to the base or under the tentacles of a large magnificent ritteri anemone or Heteractis magnifica.

The flame hawk gets along fairly well with other fish but may act aggressively toward other bottom-dwelling species and has been known to swoop down "like a hawk" to attack. In a small aquarium this may present a problem, so either avoid other bottom-dwellers or provide this fish with plenty of room and hiding places to ease territorial conflicts.

Hawkfish are also unafraid to pick on fish that are bigger than themselves and are likely to eat snails, shrimp, and crabs. In short, members of the cleaner crew are on the menu of this fish.

They quickly come to control the substrate around their territory and keep other fish at bay. They can also act as referees by rushing in and breaking up fights between other fish. They are usually quite tolerant of fish that swim higher in the water column, and those that avoid their territory.

Flame Hawkfish Habitat and Care

Flame hawkfish are happiest as bottom-dwellers. They live in areas where coral heads and stones are present to perch upon and hide in. It will normally be close to a convenient place to dart into and hide when any threats approach it. The fish prefer coral that is a similar color to its body as a way to provide cover or camouflage. Hawkfish are an extremely hardy and disease-resistant species able to adapt to a wide range of aquarium conditions. It is suggested that you provide the flame hawkfish with constantly moving, oxygenated water in the reef aquarium. It may lose its vibrant red color in the aquarium if not provided with proper nutrition.

Flame Hawkfish Diet

The flame hawkfish is a carnivore with a diet preference for small crustaceans, some sessile invertebrates (immovable, like coral), and invertebrates that can move. It will eat feather dusters and ornamental shrimp, as well as may pick hermit crabs and snails right out of their shells. Even though fish are not a preferred food source, they may try and eat smaller fish if the opportunity arises.

This fish can be a very finicky eater, and in captivity, some specimens may have a tendency to not want to eat at all. We found that most would adapt pretty well, while others would just ignore tank fed fares. With persistence and patience, stubborn feeders can eventually figure out that the dried shrimp, flake foods, and other meaty fares being provided are food. This fish can be fed a daily diet of crustacean and fish flesh, mysid shrimp, and other fresh or frozen meaty fares suitable for marine carnivores.

Sexual Differences

Hawkfish are protogynous or sequential hermaphrodites, which means all individuals are born female. Basically, when a group of females exists in the absence of a male, the most dominant changes sex and becomes the male. Typically, the male then exerts control over the group and mates with all of the females. By and large, hawkfish reproduce in a harem-type way. Males are larger than females.

Breeding the Flame Hawkfish

Flame hawkfish perform their courtship and spawning rituals at or right after dusk near the surface in the open water. The female releases a large number of buoyant eggs that are promptly fertilized by the male. The fertilized eggs float away on water currents. They do not guard their offspring. Hatching is believed to occur after roughly three weeks.

Unique Characteristic

While they have very strong pectoral fins they are not good swimmers. These fish lack a swim bladder, which would otherwise help keep them buoyant. These fish seem to push themselves through the water instead of swimming. This should be taken into consideration when keeping them with much larger fast-swimming fish that could see them as a potential meal. When these fish are perched on top of rocks they will use their strong pectoral fins to "walk across" the rock instead of swim across.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

Check out other saltwater fish that might be a nice addition to your tank.

If you are not sure whether you want to support a saltwater fish tank or if you would prefer to maintain a freshwater habitat, check out all of the other pet fish breed profiles.