Aquarists at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium are celebrating the birth of hundreds of rare leopard spot gobies.
It’s believed to be the first time the fish has been bred successfully in captivity and staff are hopeful the tiny hatchlings will continue to thrive.
The colourful fish, which are covered in bright red and orange spots, were virtually unknown around the British coast until the introduction of modern scuba equipment.
Despite looking like a tropical reef species, the leopard spot goby is actually native to the south west of England and further populations have now been reported from the north east of the country.
Blue Reef’s Jenny Youngs, who is now rearing the tiny hatchlings in the aquarium’s nursery, said: “Leopard spot gobies are definitely one of the most attractive of our native species.
“Their bright markings are all the more unusual as most other members of the goby family are far more drably coloured to match their rocky or sandy habitat.
“We’re looking after literally hundreds of microscopic hatchlings with even more due to hatch out any day.
“We have a group of four adults here at Blue Reef but this is the first time they have bred. As far as we know the species is not on display anywhere else in the UK so we think this is actually a first,” she added.
The leopard spot goby lives in the shallow seas below low water mark in rocky areas. They are occasionally found in rockpools.
In the wild they feed on small crustaceans and other tiny invertebrates.
Although records are scarce, experts believe the fish breed in the spring and are relatively short-lived - apparently dying once they have spawned.