Mullus surmuletus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Photos taken by George Reclos, text by Andreas Iliopoulos. Aegean Sea, Serifos island, August 2004.
Natural habitat: The fishes are found over bottoms with debris, near underwater meadows and sandy or muddy substrata.
Depth: from shallow waters as 2 m deep to 100 m, but usually found between 5 and 60 m.
Size: have reported specimens up to 40 cm and 1 kg of weight, but usually between 20 cm and 25 cm (SL), in maturity.
Food: Feeds on a variety of benthic animals, as invertebrates (worms, shrimps, amphipods, polychaetes, snails etc) and small fishes living on the substratum.
Breeding: The species spawns during May and July (may vary a bit locally). The eggs and larval stages of the fry are pelagic. They need about fifteen (15) to fifty two (52) months to double their population.
Distribution: Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, east Atlantic Ocean (from the southwest Norway and British islands to Dakar and Sénégal, including Azores, Canary islands, Madeira), rare in the North Sea.
Common name: striped mullet
General information: The animals may live about ten (10) years in the wild – as reported – and shall grow quite large.
A very good addition for Mediterranean set ups. They are colorful, peaceful and interesting in behavior (the typical “catfish”) animals. They are also very useful for tanks as they stir the substratum and they do not allow the formation of toxic gas pouches in it. Additionally it is a great scavenger. Their long barbells are extremely sensitive sensors.
It is advised to keep them in small schools (over six individuals) in medium to large tanks (600 l – 1.200 l) along with peaceful, but not exclusively benthic, species. Their tanks should have large open sandy areas with soft bottoms of fine gravel layers.
The mechanical filters of such an enclosure should be powerful and special care should be given in the maintenance of these media and frequent cleaning of the water pumps, due to the digging activities of the fishes.
It is quite easy to distinguish the species from their relatives M. barbatus (the red mullet) by the shape of the heads (less blunt) and the horizontal stripes on their dorsal fins. When they search for food may produce even enormous clouds of sand and other benthic species usually follow them to feed on the dug out matter.
It is valuable as a fish food. It is said that cats – which share the remains (bones and sculls) of fishes that were eaten from humans – never had the opportunity to taste them (!), as the fishes are very tasty and highly appreciated.