Sanopus splendidus is a species belonging to the Batrachoididae family, which in turn is included in the order Batrachoidiformes. This species is found in the western Atlantic Ocean, only in the waters of the island of San Miguel de Cozumel, where it was believed to be endemic. Specimens of this species have subsequently been found in neighboring Belize. It is almost always associated with caves and crevices located in the lower part of the reefs, at depths ranging from 8 to 25 meters.
The body of the splendid coral toadfish is relatively long (up to 29 cm), with a large, dorso-ventrally compressed head with many branched chins and skin flaps, especially in the area of the lower jaw. The mouth is also large and rounded in shape, and inside we find small but sharp teeth on both jaws. The eyes are large and are positioned on the top of the head, which allows them to have an upward gaze, as specimens are generally flush with the bottom. Behind the eyes, and before reaching the vertical formed by the pectoral fins, we find the opercula, which in this species have two solid spines, one at the top and the other at the bottom. The dorsal fin is formed by three low spines, followed by between 29 and 31 soft rays that run along the back two thirds of the length of the specimen. The same is true for the anal fin, which consists of 25 soft rays. The pectoral fins are large and rounded, while the pelvic fins are smaller and pointed. Finally, the caudal fin is small and rounded. Sanopus splendidus has bare skin, that is to say they do not have scales.
Sanopus splendidus is a fish that will rarely come out of its hiding place during the day, and will only show its head, so it is difficult to enjoy the wonderful coloration of this species. The head is black with dense alternating white lines that cross from one side to the other forming a zebra pattern. The body is dark gray with a pattern of more or less irregular lighter circles. The fins are all dark gray, with broad apical margins of bright yellow-orange. The only exception is the pelvic fins which are entirely yellowish orange.
The diet of Sanopus splendidus is based mainly on small fish, but also on invertebrates such as snails and polychaetes. Like all toadfish, it remains motionless and camouflaged with the environment, until the prey approaches and it can catch it with a sudden movement of its head.
The splendid coral toadfish generates a mating buzz that can be heard by divers.Photos: