Pink candy is lining store shelves and the annual That’s A-Moray party for Aquarium members is only a week away. That can only mean one thing. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!

Here at the Aquarium, love is also in the water of the 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank. (Truth be told, love is in the water 365 days a year. When fish are comfortable, healthy, and well-fed, mating behavior is just part of the routine.) But around Valentine’s Day, we like to highlight some of the special couples in our largest exhibit. Click through some of these videos to see who is pairing up! You’ll see some pairs exhibiting mating behaviors and other proud parents fiercely guarding their eggs.

Jackknife fish

Jackknife Fish

Jackknife fish are typically bottom dwellers, which is why I think this video is so intriguing and why I was excited to catch it on film. The twirling behavior is likely a mating dance.

Butterflyfishes

Butterflyfishes

The shorthand we have for the butterflyfishes is BFFs. That’s pretty appropriate since these species are always seen in pairs, and sometimes we see them cruising the GOT in squads. The species seen in this video are spotfin and foureye butterflyfishes. When collecting these critters, we never take only one of a pair, and if its mate eludes us we release it.

Sargassum triggerfish

Sargassum triggerfish

The divers had the camera in the water in the right place at the right time to catch a male and female mating, then laying the eggs down in the gravel. Unlike other species in the Giant Ocean Tank, these triggerfish do not guard their nest . The pair lays the demersal (which means on the seafloor) eggs down in the gravel and then abandons them.

Guarding their nests

Queen triggerfish

Sergeant Majors

What happens after breeding behaviors? Egg laying! Queen triggerfish and sergeant majors are fierce protectors of their eggs, which they lay in the sandy bottom and solid structures (ie inside wall of the GOT), respectively.

Queen trigger parents will not hesitate to attack a GoPro or the fins of a scuba diver, so we’re sure to warn GOT divers when there’s an active nest in the tank.

Sergeant majors, the most prolific breeders/egg layers in the Giant Ocean Tank, will definitely let a diver know if you’re too close to their nest. They have no fear and will certainly bite fingers and scalps of scuba divers. Thankfully they aren’t strong enough to break skin, but we still give them their distance!

Grab your sweetie and visit the Aquarium to see if you can identify any of these pairs of fish pairing up in the Giant Ocean Tank! Buy your tickets online if you want to get right in to enjoy the dazzling sights and fascinating behaviors in our largest exhibit.
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