Species NameMalacanthidae
Common NameTilefish
Care LevelModerate
LifespanUp to 10 years
Adult Size8-36 inches (varies by species)
Minimum Tank Size125 gallons
Temperature70-78°F (21-26°C)
Water ConditionsdKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025

About the Tilefish

Tilefish belong to the Malacanthidae family and are renowned for their alluring, often vivid colors and the distinct, elongated bodies that they possess. These fish inhabit deeper waters and are generally found along the bottom, making burrows in the sandy substrate where they retreat for safety. Their striking colors and fascinating behaviors make them a unique addition to a marine aquarium.

Often confused with wrasses due to their similar body shape, Tilefish have their own set of unique attributes and care requirements. Their sensitivity to changes in their environment and specific dietary needs make them a bit challenging to care for, especially for beginner aquarists.

Tilefish Lifespan

In a well-maintained and stable marine environment, Tilefish can live for up to 10 years. However, their lifespan can be drastically reduced if exposed to unfavorable water conditions or if their dietary and space needs aren’t adequately met. Keeping a consistent and stable tank environment is pivotal to ensuring a long and healthy life for these fish.


Tilefish are distinguishable by their elongated, slender bodies adorned with bright colors that can range from blue, yellow, pink, to a mix of iridescent hues. Some species exhibit vivid patterns, while others might possess a more uniform coloration. Their dorsal fin runs almost the entire length of their body, and they have large, expressive eyes that aid in their bottom-dwelling lifestyle.

Average Size

While the size of a Tilefish can vary significantly based on the species, most of them range from 8 inches to an impressive 36 inches in length when fully grown. It’s imperative to research the specific species to understand their size requirements and to accommodate their growth.

Tilefish Care

Tank Size

A minimum of 125 gallons is recommended for most Tilefish, though larger species will require even more space. Given their propensity to swim near the bottom and burrow, a spacious tank floor is essential.

How To Set Up Their Tank

Tilefish are burrowers, so a thick layer of sandy substrate is essential for their well-being. Add in rocks and caves for additional hiding spots. Due to their deep-water origins, a more dimly lit environment might be appreciated. It’s also essential to have a secure lid, as Tilefish are known to jump.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate lighting will suffice for Tilefish. If housing them with corals, ensure the corals’ lighting requirements are met without causing discomfort to the Tilefish.


Maintaining a pH level between 8.1 and 8.4 is ideal for Tilefish. Regular water tests and adjustments can help ensure a stable pH level, crucial for the fish’s health.


Tilefish thrive in water temperatures ranging from 70°F to 78°F (21°C to 26°C).

Water Parameters

Ensure water hardness (dKH) remains between 8-12. The specific gravity should be kept between 1.020 and 1.025. Regular water changes, along with the use of high-quality marine salts, will help maintain these parameters.

Disease Potential

Tilefish are susceptible to typical marine diseases, including ich and skin flukes. Regular observation, quarantine measures for new tank additions, and maintaining optimal water conditions are vital to prevent disease outbreaks.

Food & Diet

Tilefish are omnivorous, and a balanced diet is key to their well-being. They thrive on a mix of meaty foods like shrimp, squid, and marine fish flesh, along with occasional servings of herbivorous foods. Specialized marine pellets and flakes can also be included in their diet. Given their active nature, regular feeding, without overfeeding, is crucial.

Behavior and Temperament

Tilefish are generally peaceful but can be territorial with their own kind or similarly-shaped fish. They exhibit fascinating behaviors, such as burrowing and darting in and out of their sandy homes. While they can be shy initially, over time and with the right environment, they become more confident and active.

Tank Mates

Peaceful, similarly-sized marine fish make the best companions for Tilefish. Avoid keeping them with aggressive or overly territorial fish. Also, given their potential to be territorial themselves, caution should be exercised if trying to keep multiple Tilefish together.


Breeding Tilefish in captivity remains a relatively uncharted territory. In the wild, they’re known to lay eggs in their burrows, which are then guarded by the male. Successfully replicating this in a home aquarium would require creating an ideal environment, coupled with meticulous observation and care. However, the exact requirements for successful breeding in captivity are still largely unknown.

Tilefish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)