At a Glance

Family: Apogonidae

Genus: Pterapogon

Species Name: kauderni

Common name(s): Banggai Cardinalfish, Kaudern’s Cardinalfish, Highfin Cardinal

Native range: Banggai Islands, Indonesia (see map, lower right quadrant of map)

Banggai in Sulawesi Map

Map of Sulawesi, showing Banggai Islands at lower right.


Habitat: Open sandy bottom with seagrass beds, in bays or near reef. Associates with Long-Spined Sea Urchins (Diadema setosum), sea anemones, and branching stony corals.

Maximum length: 3 inches (7.5 cm)

Minimum aquarium size: 15 gallons (57 L)

Water: Marine 76°F (24.4°C)–80°F (26.6°C)

General swimming level: Mid-level


Carnivore. Offer meaty foods, including chopped seafood, adult brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and frozen preparations for carnivores. Live foods will help condition fish and stimulate breeding behaviors.

Aquarium compatibility

Easy to keep, once acclimated and eating. Serious territorial squabbles may occur in groups of Banggai Cardinals if housed in smaller tanks. A shoal may require a large tank (100 gallons [379 L] or more).

New specimens, unless captive-bred, may refuse to eat, become emaciated, and perish. Feeding live adult brine shrimp for the first week is a good solution. Offer food at least twice a day. (If live mysid shrimps are available, they are a superior source of nutrition and few fish can resist them.) Some aquarists recommend feeding the fry of freshwater livebearers, such as guppies or mollies.

Live brine shrimp can be enriched by adding Selcon to their water for several hours before they are fed to fishes.

Gradually mix in frozen high-quality meaty foods at feeding times, such as Mysis shrimp, and they will be weaned off live food. High-protein enriched pellets can also be worked into the diet.

Captive-Bred Pterapogon kauderni, image: Matthew L. Wittenrich

Captive-Bred Pterapogon kauderni, image: Matthew L. Wittenrich


Mouthbrooder. Male carries eggs in his oral cavity and does not eat for a period of several weeks. Fry emerge fully pigmented and ready to eat baby brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii). Parents will eat young if they are not separated quickly.

See this article by Dr. Frank Marini for an account of early success breeding the Banggai Cardinal: Banggai Breeding I.

See also Matthew Wittenrich’s Breeder’s Guide to Marine Fishes (Microcosm/TFH, 2007) for a full account of how to breed this and other cardinalfishes. See also his opinion piece: Boycotting the Wild Banggai Cardinalfish.


May be overfished in its remote wild range. Author Denise Tackett reports that a fish collector in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia, has released this species and it seems to be thriving and spreading.

Buy captive-bred specimens if available.

Reference: 101 Best Saltwater Fishes by Scott Michael (TFH, 2007)

Originally introduced to the aquarium hobby by Dr. Gerald R. Allen, who “rediscovered” the species in a remote area of Indonesia in 1994 with underwater photographer Roger Steene.

Excerpt from Microcosm Aquarium Explorer, a partner of CORAL Magazine. Photo credits: Top – Alf Jacob Nilsen, Reef Secrets. Middle – Matthew L. Wittenrich, Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes.