We cannot tell a lie. Shedd Aquarium does not have any fishes or other animals with “Washington” in their common or scientific names. And thanks to Kathy Lee, special projects manager and our resource extraordinaire on who is in what exhibit, we know that we don’t have any animals named Lincoln, either.

But Kathy helped us cherry-pick two holiday-appropriate dazzlers: the cherry anthias in the Oceans gallery and the cherry barb in Rivers.

a cherry anthias swimmingThe cherry anthias (Sacura margaritacea) inhabits the rocky reefs of Japan’s coastal waters, from 75 to 200 feet down. The genus name is a Latinization of the Japanese word sakura, or cherry, although these medium-sized fish are decidedly orange. The species name means “pearly,” perfectly describing the pearlescent white spots sported by adult males.

Like many other members of the anthias clan, these fish are hermaphrodites. Every juvenile grows into a fully reproductive female. But as she continues to grow she turns into a male, usually around the time she reaches a length of 4½ inches. The tip-off to this transition is the appearance of pink spots—soon to be pearly white—on the fish’s sides. As a male, the fish continues to grow to about 6 inches. You’ll find the cherry anthias in the Tidepools section at the end of the Oceans gallery.

a cherry barb swimmingThe cherry barb (Puntius titteya) is native to Sri Lanka. These schooling fish live in shady, shallow streams and rivulets where slow-moving waters deposit silt and leaf litter on the bottom. The fish graze there for green algae, diatoms and animal matter. They also eat flies.

The males are redder than the females, and their color intensifies and deepens during the breeding season, which is upon us now. The 2-inch-long males’ wooing of the smaller females is interrupted only to chase away rivals. Watch for these zigzag pursuits across the habitat in the Asian and Indian Rivers section of the Rivers gallery. Cherry barbs are scatter spawners, dropping their eggs on underwater plants and the silty substrate. The eggs hatch in just a day or two, and the fry are free-swimming within 48 hours.

In Sri Lanka, habitat loss, pollution from farm-chemical runoff and overcollection for the aquarium pet trade have put some populations at risk. At the same time, cherry barbs are an invasive species in Mexico and Colombia where, either through accidental or intentional releases by fish hobbyists, they have become established in some waterways.

Visit Shedd soon to discover the cherry anthias and cherry barbs for yourself. These fishes are stunning standouts. And that’s the truth.

Shedd is open until 6 p.m. on Presidents’ Day, Monday, Feb. 20, which is also one of our Illinois Resident Discount Days: Illinois residents receive free general admission, which includes the galleries where our featured fishes reside.

Posted by Karen Furnweger, web editor